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Fulford says TCI’s Judiciary will be Established as a Regional Leader under CJ Agyeman

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#TurksandCaicos, January 15, 2022 – The Legal Year 2022 opened on January 4th 2022 in a hybrid fashion, where the Chief Justice, Court of Appeal Judges, Supreme Court Judges, Magistrates and other Official participants hosted the ceremony at the Supreme Court building in person and where Attorneys and other dignitaries attended remotely via zoom link.

The ceremony today marked a welcomed improvement from last year, where covid19 numbers caused the 2021 opening ceremony to be in a strictly virtual fashion for all attendees.

This year’s ceremony saw a cadre of achievements listed by the Chief Justice in her short tenure such as:

  1. New Legal Aid Rules
  2. Establishment of a new Legal Aid Panel
  3. Establishment of a Legal Aid Roster for Civil and Criminal Matters
  4. Implementation of an 18 Month end date for Legal Aid Matters
  5. Establishment of a complaint mechanism for grievances against attorneys
  6. Establishment of Interim Payments
  7. Establishment of Legal Aid for Civil Cases
  8. Waiver of Supreme Court Fees for Civil Cases conducted under legal aid
  9. Establishment of Early Legal Aid from the investigative process.
  10. Establishment of Duty Counsels – where Legal Aid will allow those arrested on suspicion of crimes to have an attorney before charge;
  11. Legal Aid will extend to constitutional rights, habeus corpus, judicial review, domestic violence, contentions probate matters, welfare of Children matters, landlord dispute matters;
  12. Court Connected Mediation Rules
  13. Court to now promote ADR
  14. Establishment of Court mandated Alternative Dispute Resolution
  15. Creation of a Mediation Committee
  16. 42 Mediators are Trained
  17. Creation of a Roster of Mediators -11 are presently on the Roster
  18. Consultation has begun on restorative justice to pay reparation for Offences to promote reconciliation
  19. Establishment of Queens Counsel Selection Panel
  20. Establishment of Alternative Sentencing Guidelines
  21. Establishment of the first ever Bail Ordinance
  22. Establishment of a Sentencing Deadline Committee
  23. Establishment of a Magistrate Rules Committee
  24. Establishment of the Civil Procedure Rules Committee
  25. Establishment of Hybrid Hearings to allow Jury Trials to take place.
  26. Establishment of a Court/Legal Library;
  27. Continuous population of TCILII with judgements
  28. Re-Constitution of the Judicial Education Committee JEI
  29.  JEI three workshops held for Court Staff
  30.  JEI programs to equip Court Clerks with Paralegal training
  31. JEI trained the Bailiffs on Self Defence
  32. JEI armed Bailiffs with body cameras
  33.  Establishment of Registrar of Magistrate Courts
  34. Onboarding of two Judicial Research Assistants
  35.  Establishment of Code of Conduct for the Judiciary
  36. The House of Assembly have voted to provide 3 million dollars toward a state-of-the-art court building for The Judiciary.
  37. Two Buildings have been located and will be retrofitted to be used as Magistrate Courts in South Caicos and North Caicos.

Chief Justice Agyeman laid out other initiatives of the Judiciary and other Strategic priorities are as follows for 2022:

  1. The E-Judiciary initiatives will continue, that will provide paperless access to the digital platform.
  2. A dedicated space for ADR, being a center for parties to undertake mediation
  3. Legislation to bring clarity to Judicial officers is underway.
  4. Ethics and Integrity Training for Court Staff.
  5. Extensive electronic infrastructure is being implemented to improve virtual proceedings
  6. Ongoing work addressing gaps in treatment of Mental Health Issues  and Juveniles in criminal justice
  7. A CJSG which is a collaboration of all stakeholders of justice that serves the public and is striving to provide a multi-level approach to provide access to quality criminal justice.
  8. The CJSG will also be publishing a calendar of community initiatives it will undertake to bring its work to the people they exist to serve.

Fulford views Chief Justice Mabel Agyeman in her role as Head of the Judiciary, as a Judge who sets goals and achieves them despite arduous challenges. The way in which the Chief Justice relentlessly pursues the Judiciary’s goals bodes well for the jurisdiction and no doubt her record of achievement in her short tenue will cause the TCI Judiciary to become known as a regional leader.

Fulford noted that the Turks and Caicos Islands’ Judiciary continues to grow from strength to strength because of the Chief Justice’s resourcefulness, perseverance and commitment to modernization and improvement.

Chief Justice Agyeman thanked the DPP personally and his office for assisting in the many Judiciary reforms. Further thanks were given to the Attorney General and the Bar Association through its President who was on hand to give and receive the remarks.  Many thanks were Given to the Governor, Deputy Governor, Premier, Cabinet and Parliament for the support to the Judiciary.

Chief Justice Agyeman specially thanked the Acting Court Administrator Mrs Barbara Jervis, Her Registrar Ms Renee McLean and her Judicial Assistant Ms. Aisha DeFour.

In closing, The Hon. Chief Justice renewed her commitment and that of the entire Judiciary to continue to improve access to quality justice for all in TCI and to be untiring in their efforts to follow through on the plans outlined for 2022, and continue to strive to position the Judiciary to attain the stature of a resilient, and accountable institution.

Fulford indicated, it’s an opportune time to be serving the public in the legal profession.

 

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RTCIPF Marine Branch and USCG Working Together in Keeping Our Borders Secure

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#TurksandCaicos, May 20, 2022 – During the afternoon of Wednesday 19th May 2022, a call was made to the RTCIPF Marine Operations Centre via VHF radio that a suspicious vessel was sighted around 35 miles south east of Providenciales. The operator immediately updated colleagues within the Royal Turks and Caicos Marine Branch who made their way to the location and with the support of a US Coast Guard (USCG) plane, safely intercepted an overloaded vessel carrying irregular migrants.

Following delicate coordination and the stabilization of the boat which was unsafe, severely overcrowded and none of the occupants was wearing life vests, the RTCIPF marine unit was joined by a second RTCIPF Marine crew and a third vessel crewed with TCI Regiment and Tactical Unit officers to support the delicate operation.

The vessel was carefully offloaded at sea to ensure the safety of the occupants after which, the boat was towed to South Dock where it arrived around 10:30pm with a total of 110 persons (84 males and 24 females and 2 juveniles) who were then taken into custody by the Immigration Department.

Superintendent Martyn Ball said, “Once again working with partners we have safely intercepted another vessel that was overcrowded, unsafe, risking the lives of those on board. This demonstrates the professionalism and dedication of the RTCIPF Marine Unit, working together with colleagues in the Marine Operations Centre, USCG, TCI Regiment, TCI Immigration and the RTCIPF Tactical Unit to save lives and keep our borders here in the Turks and Caicos safe.  In the last couple of months around 768 individuals on 8 dangerous vessels have been intercepted which is testament to the professionalism of our teams here in the TCI and I am very grateful to the passing vessel who raised the alarm.  I would appeal to anyone if you have any information relating to such activity that you call Crimes Stoppers free and anonymously on 1-800-8477 (TIPS) not only will you be saving lives but also supporting our national security here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.”

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List of Demands for UK, presented by Overseas Territories at May 4-6 meetings

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By Dana Malcolm

Staff Writer

 

#UnitedKingdom, May 19, 2022 – Speakers of the House from Overseas Territories in the Caribbean met with the UK House of Commons in the first ever Speaker-led conference to discuss issues relating to governance, climate and visibility in the House of Commons and provide the UK with an idea of what they say is necessary for OTs to survive.

The meeting held on May 4th to 6th was attended by Speakers from Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Saint Helena, Turks and Caicos Islands, the UK House of Commons and a representative from Gibraltar.

A communique released after the event made it clear that democracy was of utmost import to the small island states.

“We reaffirmed the central role played by legislatures in democratic life, our commitment to the principles of democracy in our legislatures, the sacredness of democracy and the need for partnership to sustain it. As our legislatures bring together all components of society, they are the cornerstones of democratic governance; they represent the wills and expressions of the people through scrutiny and democratic process,” it said.

Governance

In order to support the legislature the OTs requested that the UK government provide funding for them to have a ‘dedicated building in which to carry out its activities and duties’ as well as investment in the training of officials and sharing of best practices. The Speakers also requested that funding be provided for any constitutional reviews should the issue arise.

To ensure that the overseas territories have a voice in legislation in the UK that affects them the UK Speaker promised to explore opportunities for OTs to scrutinise these laws . Additionally the UK Speaker said the house of commons was willing to help facilitate parliamentary representation of the Overseas Territories at the UK Parliament if the territories decided they wanted to.

The Speakers requested that outside of this the UK provide detailed Impact Assessments for any bill that would affect them

Climate Change 

Aptly described as a climate emergency in the communique the speakers noted that while the OTs were bastions of nature  the volatility with which climate change was occurring would directly impact overseas territories first and worst.

“The Overseas Territories are custodians of internationally important habitats, which span the globe from the Antarctic to the Caribbean, the South Atlantic to the Pacific and the Indian Oceans with different geographical challenges…We recognise that the Overseas Territories have multiple levels of vulnerability including economic constraints and challenges of infrastructure which mean the impacts of the climate emergency can result in huge environmental disasters and economic impacts” it said.

Thus the countries called for long term, strategic action by the UK including dedicated and transparent funding to replace lost EU funding caused by Brexit. They also thanked the UK for their commitment to biodiversity.

The territories ended on a firm note emphasising their right to self-determination saying, “We reiterate our shared belief that the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, as enshrined in the UN Charter, applies to the peoples of the Overseas Territories.”

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JAMAICA: Bust of Labour Movement Activist Agnes Bernard Unveiled

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#Jamaica, May 19, 2022 – A bust of Agnes “Aggie” Bernard, a stalwart in Jamaica’s labour movement, has been erected at the Kingston Craft Market located downtown.

The sculpture, which rests atop an existing monument in her honour, was commissioned in partnership between the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.

It was unveiled during a ceremony on Wednesday (May 18) to kick off Workers’ Week from May 15 to 23 under the theme ‘Repositioning Jamaica’s Labour Market post COVID-19’.

Speaking at the unveiling, Culture Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange, said that Ms. Bernard was one of the foremost pioneering women activists in Jamaica’s labour movement during the 1938 labour riots that were pivotal in Jamaica’s political development.

“We honour one of the truly outstanding women of Jamaica, a heroine in her own right. Aggie was truly one of the great and faithful servants of the labour movement in Jamaica,” she said.

“At the age of 28 in 1938, she was there when Alexander Bustamante, who had decided to lead the workers, and Garveyite, St. William Grant, were arrested fighting for the cause of striking workers. Seeing all of this, Aggie was moved to lend a hand to the cause and what a mighty hand that was,” Ms. Grange recounted.

The Minster said that the decision not only changed Aggie’s life, but it had a signal effect on the labour movement in Jamaica.

“She used up all the money she had at the time, the grand sum of five shillings and sixpence to buy bread, coffee and sugar for the hungry strikers. Admiring and supporting her move, sympathisers stepped in and gave money for food,” Ms. Grange said.

In 1976, Aggie was honoured with the Order of Distinction in recognition of her outstanding service to the trade union movement and her contribution to nationhood. The Organization of American States (OAS) also awarded her a special certificate of merit. She died on October 7, 1980 and was given an official funeral and buried at National Heroes Park.

Ms. Grange said that the bust of Aggie Bernard is a tribute to the workers of Jamaica and is one of the Legacy Projects for the country’s diamond jubilee.

For his part, Labour Minister, Hon. Karl Samuda, in a speech read by Chief Technical Director in the Ministry, Dione Jennings, said Workers’ Week recognises workers across Jamaica for their unwavering contribution to the economic growth and development of the society.

He said that this year’s theme recognises that “if Jamaica is to recover lost ground and continue on the road to economic prosperity, it will be the Jamaican worker who will have to redouble our efforts, in every sector, to improve our productivity and increase our earning power”.

The Minister noted that Jamaica has come a long way since the devastating labour riots in 1938, when the workers took action all over the island to press for improved working conditions.

Those actions, he said, led to the establishment of the Minimum Wage Act and a Labour Department, which was the precursor to the current Ministry of Labour, both in 1938.

“No longer do we, as a people, have to resort to rioting, strikes and other counter-productive measures to have our voices heard. We now settle our grievances by engaging an established conciliatory process,” Mr. Samuda said.

“In spite of the recent cases of unrest, the peace and industrial harmony which we generally enjoy has come at great cost. And so, we gather here, at this, the Monument to the Workers of 1938, which stands as a reminder of the bravery and tenacity of the workers and leaders, who risked their lives to [improve] the condition of labour in Jamaica. The nation salutes you, our unsung heroes,” he said.

Meanwhile, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Hon. Desmond McKenzie, said the Government respects and appreciates the rights of “every single Jamaican to advocate for better and improved working conditions”.

“The Government is not lost as to the concerns of the workers. The Government is committed in every way to ensure that the workers are rewarded in a meaningful way,” Mr. McKenzie said.

 

Release: Latonya Linton

Release: JIS

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