Seize the moment to reform criminal justice system, Commonwealth SG tells stakeholders


Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland Thursday urged stakeholders within the criminal justice sector to “seize the moment” to reform the sector.

“The fight for justice is continuous,” she affirmed in an address to First Legal Conference on Criminal Justice Reform – Advancing the Needham’s Point Declaration, being held at the Mariott Hotel in Georgetown.

The event brings together a diverse group of stakeholders, including legislators, government officials, judges from the CCJ, national and regional judicial officers, academics, law students, civil society representatives, and international experts.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall greets Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland on her arrival at the Mariott Hotel in Georgetown.

Scotland had earlier expressed her support for Guyana’s reform agenda, emphasising the importance of justice in building an equitable society, particularly for the poor, marginalized, and vulnerable.

“We must pull every lever at our disposal to make sure people know they live in a just world because they can see it, feel it, taste it. And the law is the main instrument through which justice can be guaranteed.”

Drawing on her extensive legal and governmental experience, the Secretary-General shared her conviction in the power of legal reform to effect change.

“My experience as a Minister exemplifies what the right interventions can deliver – because during my time in Government, we reduced crime in the UK to its lowest levels in 30 years, and reduced instances of domestic violence by 64%.”

She recognised the significant challenges facing the Caribbean and the Commonwealth, including economic hardship, democratic backsliding, poverty, climate change, and erosion of faith in institutions.

“In all the years that I have been a lawyer, we have never faced a time similar to that which we now face. That puts a weight on your shoulders.”

Addressing the gap between law, its application, and justice, she emphasized the crucial role of legal professionals in upholding principles and ensuring access to justice.

“The Commonwealth needs your acuity, your wisdom, and your courage – and your place within the Commonwealth gives you a real advantage.”

The Secretary-General highlighted the unique position of the Commonwealth, where member governments voluntarily commit to shared values and principles set out in the Commonwealth Charter, including the rule of law. She underscored the influence of the Commonwealth’s common legal heritage in shaping justice systems.

She recounted the recent regional dialogues on crime and violence, including the October 2023 conference in Barbados, which called for a comprehensive and collaborative overhaul of criminal justice systems.

“This holistic approach has been a hallmark of the Commonwealth under my leadership.”

The Secretary-General detailed the initiatives of the Commonwealth Office of the Civil and Criminal Justice Reform, including the development of toolkits, model laws, and templates to improve regulations, policies, and institutional systems across member states.

“The impact of this work has been significant.”

She pointed to the deployment of ‘justice boxes’ in partnership with BareFoot Law to provide free legal advice across the Commonwealth and the introduction of a new model law on Virtual Assets to combat money laundering and terrorism financing.

Emphasising the role of technology in legal reform, she introduced Prof Richard Susskind as the Special Envoy for Justice and Artificial Intelligence, highlighting the potential of virtual courts and AI to enhance judicial efficiency and access to justice.

Concluding her remarks, the Secretary-General called on the delegates to seize the responsibility of reforming the legal systems.

“It is a responsibility we must seize, and seize together,” he urged.

“To deliver the promise of the Charter which guides us: to deliver the essential protection of our people through the rule of law.”

The conference continues with discussions on implementing these transformative ideas, aiming to create a more just and equitable criminal justice system for the Caribbean and the Commonwealth.

Advertisement _____
Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.