(CMC) — The United Kingdom’s Caribbean Security and Stability Fund (CSSF) is providing EC$200,000 (one EC dollar=US$0.37 cents) to six countries in the Eastern Caribbean to facilitate remote operations of the magistrates courts during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Lucia, St Kitts & Nevis and St Vincent & the Grenadines will tap into the funds that will be used to purchase equipment including laptops, printers, scanners, mobile phones and Zoom subscriptions.
The equipment and use of technology will allow the courts to make a smooth transition to the digital delivery of some essential services and limit substantial disruption to the criminal justice process.
According to a statement issued here by the British High Commission, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced jurisdictions to implement stringent social distancing rules to lessen the risk of transmitting the virus. These measures have resulted in the suspension of physical court activity.
As a functioning criminal justice system is essential to delivering law and order and reducing the risk of social unrest, the US/UK criminal justice adviser to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mrs Sirah Abraham, approached CSSF for assistance to support remote working in regional magistrate courts.
“This support will reduce the risk of spreading the virus, prevent courts from being shut down as a result of spread and limit any delays in the criminal justice process by ensuring that these essential services are still provided to the public,” the high commission said.
Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Dame Janice Pereira, had already urged courts to use remote hearings to facilitate the continuation of proceedings and prepared guidance on how these matters were to be conducted in a practice direction issued in relation to COVID-19 emergency measures.
She expressed her gratitude for the funding and the continued support of the Criminal Justice Reform Project.
“I thank you so much for your continued assistance in coming to our aid and more particularly, in these times when we must retool to ensure that the justice system continues to deliver justice fairly and effectively, even if the physical doors and spaces are closed,” she added.
The CSSF is a UK cross-government fund which supports and delivers activity to tackle instability and conflict. In the Caribbean this fund is focused on supporting the region to address serious organised crime and the development of the justice systems in the region to be able to effectively and efficiently tackle serious crime.