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CARIBBEAN | JURIST project launches model sexual offence guidelines

Justice Rajnauth-Lee, of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) Justice Rajnauth-Lee, of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Oct 2, CMC – The Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) project says it has launched its model guidelines for sexual offence cases in the Caribbean.

JURIST says the guidelines are intended to provide internationally accepted best practices for the management of sexual offence cases, and offer a rights-based approach to the treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses, including children, involved in sexual assault cases.

sexual offencesThe initiative was launched at the Caribbean Association of Judicial Officer’s (CAJO) 5th Biennial Conference that ended in Curaçao over the last weekend.

Justice Rajnauth-Lee, of the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) said that even though the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region has made progress in promoting gender equality, sexual violence perpetrated against women, girls and boys remains a significant problem.

She said the region experiences high levels of sexual violence, the majority of which is underreported and ineffectively dealt with by the justice system.

She noted there have been improvements in the justice system’s response to sexual assaults and the survivors of sexual violence who seek redress from the courts.

“However, a 2016 Baseline Study, commissioned by the JURIST Project and undertaken by UN Women, found that the justice system’s management of sexual offences and its treatment of complainants and witnesses remains uneven, uncoordinated in relation to the relationship between justice sector actors who work along the justice chain with sexual offences and continues to lead to the re-victimisation of survivors who seek protection and redress,” the judge said.

Justice Rajnauth-Lee said the guidelines will provide guidance to justice sector stakeholders involved in the reporting, investigation, prosecution and adjudication of sexual offences.

JURIST project director, Dr. Penny Reedie, hailed the development of the guidelines as a major milestone in the life of the Project, a five-year regional Caribbean judicial reform initiative funded under a

CAN$19 million (One Canada dollar = US$0.80 cents) arrangement with Global Affairs Canada. The project is being executed by the CCJ and with other regional partners contribute four million Canadian dollars to the initiative.

“These guidelines, are the result of hard work, dedication, and commitment to improve the management of sexual offences cases throughout the region and the treatment of survivors of sexual offences,” Reedie said.

JURIST said that it hopes the guidelines will be adopted by all countries in the region and that its implementation will result in the speedy adjudication of cases and reduction of case backlogs over time; the improved responses to survivors that will enable their full participation in the justice system, increase offender accountability and reduce secondary victimisation as well as a trained and skilled cadre of cross-sectional professionals including judges, court personnel, police and attorneys to efficiently respond to sexual assault cases, survivors and witnesses.

It is also intended to increase public confidence in the justice system as it relates to the handling of sexual assault cases.

  • Countries: Trinidad_Tobago