The adjustments are contained in the Evidence (Amendment) Bill, 2014, which was passed in the Senate on Friday with 10 amendments.
The Bill seeks to enhance the efficiency of Jamaica’s justice system, by providing a simpler procedure for the admissibility of computer-generated evidence, and the reports of experts, where the latter is not deemed disputable.
A revised model relating to how computer-generated evidence is dealt with in the United Kingdom has been incorporated into the Bill.
Debate on the Bill in the Upper House, which was opened by Justice Minister, Senator the Hon. Mark Golding, in December 2014, was suspended in January, following concerns raised by Senators on certain sections of the proposed legislation, specifically in relation to the treatment of the evidence in court.
In concluding the debate on Friday, Senator Golding, explained that this new provision allows a party relying on computer generated evidence, to produce a certificate issued by the person responsible for the machine’s operation.
“That certificate, if admitted, will be deemed to be evidence of the fact stated there, as to the machine having been working at the relevant time,” he said.
The Minister noted that in a majority of cases, this procedure will result in significant reduction of delays and cost.
“ (This is) because we are accustomed to using certificates in our courts in other areas…(such as) ballistics…and in the area of medical certificates in the Resident Magistrate’s courts; and it’s a system which we are familiar with and works well,” he said.
Opposition Senator, Tom Tavares Finson, who was the final contributor to the debate, said while he supports the legislation, suggested that a “close eye be kept on the elements of the Act that deal with computer-generated evidence.”
He expressed the hope that the provisions presented, will assist in alleviating challenges experienced by persons seeking to introduce such evidence in court, either by defense or prosecuting counsel.
“We hope that the legislation will (not only) go some way to towards maintaining the balance between the prosecution and the defence, but (also in) easing the burden of presenting critical evidence at a time when computers have (advanced significantly), and at a time when we do need to keep abreast of the technical advancements in all areas,” he said.
Senator Tavares Finson said he was satisfied that the Bill provides sufficient safeguards to ensure that progress can be made in, not only reducing the backlog, but the amount of judicial time spent in court.
He also expressed the hope that the legislation will go a far way in reducing the amount of time spent transporting prisoners or persons who are on bail, to court, by “putting them in a position where they would not have to waste an inordinate amount of time to come to court on mentioned dates.”
“I anticipate that the operation of the Gun Court…will have a situation where the work of that court would be able to be completed by 12 o’clock in the day, freeing up the prosecutors, the lawyers, and the judges to do other work; because it is the presence of the accused man or woman that is a large hindrance to matters moving ahead in the court pretty quickly, and we hope that these provisions will go some way towards alleviating that difficulty,” he said.
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