Overview to Delivery at the Ministry of Justice
The Ministry of Justice is a newly created vehicle by the People’s Partnership Government to initiate the transformation of the criminal justice and penal systems in Trinidad and Tobago. The objective of the reform mandate is the delivery of speedier criminal justice and execution of the paradigm shift from retributive as the focus of punishment to restorative as the primary portal of addressing offender management and the incidence of recidivism.
As the Ministry moves to execute and deliver on its mandate to modernise and transform the Criminal Justice System a number of mission critical Statutory Bodies fall under its purview, such the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority, the Police Complaints Authority and Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. The Ministry also oversees the operations of Divisions such as the Forensic Science Centre, the Penal Reform and Transformation Unit, and Probation Services. The Mercy Committee, Sentencing Commission and Witness Protection also fall under our remit.
In preparing for delivery in fiscal; 2011/2012, the Ministry partnered with the Judiciary to identify key areas of criminal justice administration that require immediate intervention. The Judiciary singled out the overhauling of pre-trial procedures and court construction. Additionally, the Ministry has reviewed a number of pieces of legislation with a view to strengthening and modernising the investigative capacity of the State, making legal representation more widely accessible, and quickening the pace of delivery of justice for offenders and victims alike. These initiatives have resulted in a number of statutory interventions, policy development leading to a realignment of our methodologies and programmes as it relates to the management of offenders, and the beginning of a programme of court house construction.
In fiscal 2011, the Legal Unit developed policies relating to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) administration, the abolition of the preliminary inquiry, offender management, parole, prison rules, police complaint, electronic monitoring, and legal aid.
The Administration of Justice (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) Bill 2011, the Administration of Justice (Indictable Proceedings) Bill 2011, the Administration of Justice (Electronic Monitoring of Offenders) Bill 2011 and the Legal Aid and Advisory (Amendment) Bill 2011 have all been approved by the Legislation Review Committee of Cabinet and are set for debate in the Parliament.
In the area of Penal Reform, the Ministry inherited as a work in progress: the new Prison Rules and a Framework for Restorative Justice at different stages of development by the Penal Reform and Transformation Unit which was formerly under the Ministry of National Security. The policy informing these areas was found wanting and in need of review given expectations of the Peoples Partnership Government.
Additionally, a policy informing new Prison Rules, to replace archaic colonial ones with progressive interventions to address restoration pursuant to Government policy of returning offenders to goodness as quickly as possible have been perfected, as have the draft rules. Targeted stakeholder consultation continues and the proposed measure will be brought to Cabinet soon.
The Ministry is also in the process of establishing an Electronic Monitoring Unit. In order to inform the process, Officials of the Ministry of Justice visited the Bahamas and Orange County, Orlando and observed operations there. The Bahamas model will be adopted and localised owing to similarities in the legal system. It is the desire of the Ministry to operationalise this initiative with a view to have the statute enacted and proclaimed by December 31, 2011.
Additionally, the Ministry proposes by the end of 2011 to carry forward Cabinet’s mandate for the establishment and operationalization of the Offender Management Unit with legislative interventions in offender management and parole, and, the establishment of their respective Boards. These facilities will work symbiotically with the Probation Unit in facilitating offender management, parole and electronic monitoring in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Ministry developed conceptual prototype design drawings for the construction of purpose built courthouses on a design brief provided by the Judiciary. These drawings and pertinent bridging documents will next inform the process of procurement for the construction phase of the Ministry’s mandate to build these courthouses in areas to be identified along the East-West Corridor at Trincity and Sangre Grande, as well as Central and South in the districts of Carlsen Field and Siparia to bring the criminal justice to the people in their communities. It is planned that private sector funding will be utilized in a finance, construct and outfit ‘turn-key’ method of procurement under the watch of the Special Projects Unit of the Ministry of Justice. In moving criminal justice facilities out of the town centres, the Ministry will champion the Government’s vision of decentralizing operations.
The Ministry of Justice has also been approached by the Chief Justice to construct as a matter of absolute necessity a six-court Magistrates Courts Complex in Arima. The Special Projects Unit of the Ministry has identified land with the assistance of the Parliamentary Representative for the constituency of Arima and consultation will begin shortly with the Judiciary and the line Ministry of Agriculture, Lands and Marine Resources for acquisition subject to Cabinet approval. Conceptual proto-type design drawings replicated from those already developed and approved by Cabinet for Judicial Centres are now available and a note will shortly be brought to Cabinet for the construction of this additional building at Arima. On completion within thirty months of formal contract, Government will be saved the rental expense of a cramped and unsuited commercial building in the business area of the Royal Borough that now obtains.
The Magistrates Courts in Tunapuna continue to be plagued by space and logistic physical challenges. These courts occupy part of the Regional Authority’s Administrative Complex along the busy Eastern Main Road. The courts cover the large geographic area of the former St George East County from the Lady Young Road, Morvant in the west, to Arouca in the East. These courts are over-engaged in unsuited conditions and the Ministry proposes to seek Cabinet approval for the construction of a new Magistrates Court Complex at Mt Hope. Such a court complex may be commenced almost immediately on the prototype design and bridging documents already available at the Ministry.
Prototype designs and bridging drawings and documents to inform the process for the procurement of an eight court Magistrates Court Complex in San Fernando is now available and is a future developmental project for the Ministry of Justice. A note is engaging the consideration of Cabinet to inform and authorize the execution plan for the procurement process and once approved, tenders will be invited for the commencement of construction of the judicial centers and /or Magistrate Courts. The turning of the sod will be done in January 2012 to mark the commencement of courthouse construction with a suggested thirty month timeline for completion. The process of obtaining statutory approvals is being pursued by the Special Projects (Court Construction) Unit of the Ministry in anticipation of Cabinet approval of the project(s) and their respective sites.
Construction of Office Space for the Ministry of Justice
The Ministry began operations at Tower C, International Waterfront Complex chiefly with staff from the then disbanded Ministry of information. Units of Accounting, Human Resources, Audit and Corporate Services were created. In fiscal year 2010–2011, the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago approved the establishment of the following Units: Legal, Project Management, Strategic Alliances, Information technology, Corporate Communications, Special Projects (Court Construction), Electronic Monitoring, Parole and Offender Management. Recruitment is on-going to fill contract positions within the various Units.
In fiscal 2012 however, with a view to decentralization, the Ministry will commence the process for construction of a Ministry of Justice head office in Curepe. This building will be used to house the head offices of the Police Complaints Authority, Legal Aid and Advisory Authority, Probation/Offender Management Unit, and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Unit. In the medium term a building to house various divisions of a new Department of Forensic Services will be constructed. This new Department will be created with an emphasis on management of resources, training and acquisition of updated technologies, and addressing court related delivery issues.
Also projected in the medium term is the construction of a building to house various Divisions of a new Department of Forensic Services of the Ministry to address court related delivery issues inclusive of DNA, firearm and ballistic reporting.