In addition to closely following rule of law updates to understand the local context, NCSC is monitoring the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the region’s criminal justice system.
The Caribbean Anti-Crime (CAC) program has adapted quickly to address the evolving needs of Caribbean courts in the time of COVID-19. Recognizing the need to support justice sector institutions during this critical time, NCSC engaged counterparts to discuss short-, mid- and long-term solutions to planned programs and new initiatives. Counterparts welcomed the opportunity to participate in virtual training initiatives in lieu of in-person programs.
Trainings, workshops, and meetings that would typically have been conducted in-person have continued virtually, and the CBSI-Connect distance learning platform has proved useful in facilitating virtual learning and collaboration. NCSC also shared information with the Caribbean chief justices on COVID-19 responses by U.S. and regional courts and the use of technology to ensure access to justice continues during the pandemic.
CAC has hosted nearly 50 virtual events since COVID-19 restrictions began in March 2020.
One such meeting is a monthly virtual judicial KIT for judges and magistrates throughout the Caribbean where participants can raise concerns and challenges related to effective court implementation during COVID restrictions, and brainstorm and share solutions with their regional counterparts. DPP and AG offices have also agreed to participate in virtual training programs.
57% of total participants were female
43% of total participants were male
This is an ongoing effort and data will continue to be updated.
With the support of the U.S. Government, the Trinidad & Tobago courts have emerged as the model for the region, transitioning to a modern and cost-effective court case management system developed in collaboration with NCSC and consortium countries. This transition has continued even as judicial officers and court administrators work remotely, and NCSC has maintained close contact to ensure the courts have access to the necessary support.
Similarly, in April and May, the CAC Financial Crimes team hosted three online trainings on confiscation for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Barbados, Dominica, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. These trainings were well-timed given the introduction of new confiscation legislation and the renewed emphasis placed on confiscation/forfeiture of criminal assets by the DPP. This was the first confiscation training for many of the attorneys in attendance.
CAC has many virtual activities scheduled for the coming months.
The Financial Crimes Technical Working Group conference that was originally scheduled to take place in March 2020 in Bridgetown, Barbados was postponed due to COVID-19, and will now be conducted virtually in September and October. The conference will bring together national, regional, and international justice sector professionals to promote best practices investigating and prosecuting transnational financial crimes and conducting civil asset recovery procedures.
The program will also continue the next phase of the Digital Recording Initiative in The Bahamas. The initiative is designed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the Bahamian justice sector by supporting efforts to modernize the courts through the advancement of digital recording of court proceedings. CAC will host a portion of the follow-on trainings virtually. Additionally, NCSC experts remain available to the Bahamian courts as they remotely begin creating strategic planning working groups.
CAC is working on a Maritime Crime Assessment, which will identify investigative, legal, and procedural barriers preventing CBSI partner-countries from successfully investigating, prosecuting, and adjudicating maritime narcotrafficking offenses in the Caribbean region. This effort will include virtual tabletop exercises to enhance both the accuracy and impact of the assessment. By conducting these exercises virtually, they will also help with inspiring new standard operating procedures for information sharing, interagency collaboration, and regional cooperation amid the 2020 change in context.
The Regional Gang Investigation and Prosecution Training initiative is designed to strengthen the capacity of the regional DPP offices and law enforcement to investigate and prosecute gang related criminal activities. It also seeks to enhance the capacity of regional judges and magistrates to adjudicate gang related cases. The initiative includes a series of workshops and peer-to-peer consultations in Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.
For more information on COVID-19 and the courts
*This organization is not affiliated in any way with the Caribbean Anti-Crime program or the National Center for State Courts.