Jamaica News: As part of its outreach efforts to ensure that Jamaicans in various communities across the island have access to legal services and information, the Legal Aid Council hosted another justice fair, today (September 28), in Allman Town, Kingston.
Several government agencies were on hand to render crucial services to residents, including departments in the Justice Ministry, such as the Criminal, Civil and Family Law Unit, which deals with expungement of criminal records; the Justice Training Institute (JTI); and the Justice Reform Implementation Unit.
Other agencies included the Passport, Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA); Administrator General’s Department; Registrar General’s Department (RGD); National Housing Trust (NHT); National Land Agency (NLA); and the Public Defender’s Office.
Executive Director of the Legal Aid Council, Hugh Faulkner, told JIS News that the idea behind the justice fair is to meet as many of the members of a community at their point of need for legal services.
“In the long run, this (justice fair) will help to make for a more just, more peaceful and a more equitable society. Justice services must not only be accessible to persons with resources but persons who are struggling,” he emphasised.
Reflecting on past justice fairs held across the island, Mr. Faulkner informed that they have been successful, with even more residents from communities turning up towards the close of business.
“The last one we had was in Savanna–la–Mar (Westmoreland), and it was well- attended. When we were closing up and pulling down tents, people were still coming in,” he said.
Plans are now being finalised to provide stakeholders with a one-year calendar of the four locations that will be visited in 2019.
Mr. Faulkner indicated that the Legal Aid Council will also continue to hold training sessions for justices of the peace and police officers to ensure that the rights of persons being held in custody are upheld.
Meanwhile, Senior Policy Analyst in the Criminal, Civil and Family Law Unit in the Ministry, Kelvin Kerr, said there has been significant interest in expungement in the areas where the justice fairs are held.
“Persons have been coming to the fairs to get information regarding that – how it works and what they will need to do. Since this year, we have made significant efforts to make the information more accessible,” he said.
Mr. Kerr pointed out that the process of expungement can be a lengthy one, usually taking up to a year or more, due to the rigours involved.
“We do rely on information from the Criminal Records Office and also from the applicants themselves. We have to wait to see the information coming back, in order for it to go to our Board for them to deliberate. Even within the process, the Board may have questions, and, as such, we have to go back and gather information, so that informed decisions can be made,” he said.
Source: JIS News