Jamaica’s court system assessing its operations amid COVID-19

Jamaica’s Chief Justice Bryan Sykes. (Photo: JIS)

The Court Administration Division (CAD) is assessing its operations to determine how best staff should be deployed amid the local transmissions of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Chief Justice, Bryan Sykes said the functioning of the courts is vital to society, making it crucial for the judiciary “to arrange itself to uphold its fundamental constitutional obligation, in a manner that protects the health and well-being of staff”.

“We will look at how staff is deployed and whether we should have a rotating staff; all of these are matters that will have to be considered,” he noted.

“So far, the courts will remain open and after the COVID-19 Advisory Committee meeting, we will review what we have done to date and what adjustments will have to be made in light of the most recent developments,” he added.

Justice Sykes said that, currently, there is no available information that could lead to the closure of the courts.

“We have to bear in mind that there are many persons who are relying on the courts to remain open and to provide access to justice. They are the mothers of children, who are collecting monies from the family courts and the parish courts. They are fathers who wish to meet their financial obligations to their children. They are persons who may be victims of domestic abuse, and all of those persons will need access to justice even in the midst of this crisis,” he pointed out.

The CAD has advised the public that where cases are being heard, only persons critical to the matter are required to attend.

In addition, courts have been equipped with the necessary sanitisation material to protect staff and visitors, and cleaning exercises have intensified.

The Chief Justice said that while he understands the level of anxiety at this time, “we must not give in to fear. We must find out what the facts are, examine the evidence carefully, and then make decisions based upon careful thought and planning”.

The Chief Justice is expected to provide an update on the proposals and protocol to be followed coming out of the COVID-19 Advisory Committee meeting.