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On The Horizon for The Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs
Office of the AG
As a new term of office begins for the Team Unity Administration, the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs is poised for a robust continuation of the work begun during the first term from 2015 to 2020. Every operational unit within the two Cabinet portfolios have been infused with the continuing vision of Hon Vincent Byron Jr. in pursuance of the good governance and rule of law agenda of the Team Unity Government.
Several noteworthy initiatives are actively being pursued as continuing developments that were brought to the fore in the previous term. At the same time, new vision will be unfolding in relation to a number of areas that will significantly raise the profile of St. Kitts and Nevis in keeping with both domestic and international goals.
We look forward to continuing the work of advancing the compliance of St. Kitts and Nevis in relation to our obligations within the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) and our wider commitments to the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). Accordingly, we look forward to the next on-site visit under the Mutual Evaluation Programme being carried out under the CFATF. To date this has been delayed as a result of challenges associated with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In keeping with related obligations the Anti-Money Laundering National Committee Act, 2020 has already been passed in the National Assembly earlier this year.
In like manner, the performance of St. Kitts and Nevis in relation to the MESICIC will continue to be advanced going forward.
Our efforts to give full effect to the Freedom of Information Act will continue unabated. The task of preparation is advancing by way of tweaking of the legislation as well as the development of the protocols and procedures necessary for symbiotic functioning across ministries, departments and other public bodies.
Further development of the protocols and procedures to support the smooth operation of the Integrity in Public Life Act will also be pursued.
The superlative first term performance of the Team Unity Administration in relation to the legislative arm of government will serve as a benchmark for the second term. In this regard, the Office of the Attorney General will foster a continuing robust regime of activities to keep pace with the needs of the legislature as well as the requirements for subsidiary legislation.
In this regard, the contributions of the Parliamentary Counsel and others within the Chambers will continue to add value and stimulus to this thrust in the new term.
The general public will be engaged further in order to promote consensus in relation to the way forward in regard to electoral reform. Additionally, efforts will continue towards the production of a Constituency Boundaries Report in pursuance of a more equitable configuration of constituencies across the Federation.
The wide grassroots public discussion regarding the prospect of constitutional reform provides additional basis for the active consideration by the government concerning this very important issue. The Office of the Attorney General expects to be fully involved in further facilitating the discourse and in advancing its own ideas as St. Kitts and Nevis forges ahead in making history in this important area of nation building.
Legal Services Complex
The Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs will benefit immensely from the government’s recent acquisition of the C&C Building at George Street in Basseterre. This venue will be developed into a novel Legal Services Complex that will become the home of several departmental units of the ministry.
Among the entities to be located therein will be the following:
- The Land Registry
- The Law Commission
- The Electoral Office
- The Intellectual Property Office
- The Legal Aid and Advice Centre
Completion of the Annex to the Lee L Moore QC Judicial Complex
Within a matter of weeks the annex to the Lee L. Moore QC Judicial Complex will be completed. It will provide the opportunity to realize a number of visionary goals of the Team Unity Administration. These include the establishment of a state of the art Law Library and the commissioning of both a third Magistrate Court Chamber and a Mediation Centre.
The Law Library will provide ease of access to legal practitioners, litigants in person, students and the general public to online legal services, books as well as other material.
The third Magistrate Court chamber will allow for better scheduling of, and efficiency in, Summary Court matters and will increase access to justice for those who require the services of the court. It will allow for matters dealing with juveniles and other family matters as well as a traffic court.
In relation to the Mediation Centre, the full cadre of over two dozen trained mediators will have adequate facilities in which to pursue their efforts in reducing the number of matters that will be required to go to trial. The majority of mediators completed their training in March of 2019 and received their certification when the National Mediation Committee was launched in November of 2019.
As a result of this timely development, the Ministry is more empowered to continue its support of the work of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court in promoting this form of alternative dispute resolution to matters which come before that Court.
Land Administration Information System
The establishment of a dedicated Land registry in 2017 has resulted in vast improvement in reducing historical backlogs in the processing of land documents. However, the Ministry is seeking to further modernize the processes by promoting the full digitization of the registry and all of its operations. In this regard, a fully digitized Land Administration Information System (LAIS) is being developed with the support of the Taiwanese Government.
With the parallel development of a cadastral mapping project that system will be integrated into the Land Administration Information System to provide a comprehensive view of all of the lands. This will augur well for the efficiencies being promoted in relation to all dealings with land and related transactions.
The LAIS will also be integrated with the Standard Integrated Government Tax Administration System (SIGTAS) which is being used by the Inland Revenue Department. Additionally, it will also be used by the Ministry of Sustainable Development and the Accountant General’s Department to input information with regards to lands being bought and payments made into the Treasury.
Abolition of Preliminary Inquiry Et Al
The Office of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs will provide the requisite support and facilitation to bring to fruition the abolition of the preliminary inquiry process and the implementing of new sentencing guidelines. These are initiatives which are designed to further expedite the processing of criminal matters through the court system in a more timely manner. In the case of the former, the new modus operandi came into force as of 24th July 2020.
In the mean time, we also look forward to embracing the implementation of a second set of sentencing guidelines that were issued on 30th July 2020 by the Hon. Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE, LL.D Chief Justice and two other judges of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. These are expected to take effect from 1st September 2020. A previous set were introduced in 2019.
Having launched the 2017 Revised Laws of St. Kitts and the Revised Ordinances of Nevis in 2019, the Law Commission will proceed to further reviews and updates of the Laws of the Federation for a New Revised Edition taking into account new laws and amendments since 2017.
The provision of assistance in the form of legal aid to persons who are at risk of being marginalized will continue apace. The Legal Aid and Advice Centre continues to render its services to the indigent and others who may be experiencing difficulty accessing the justice system and other important legal services as a result of financial limitations.
In light of restrictive protocols associated with the national response to the novel corona virus, the department will initiate a program of special outreach out to communities to cater to the limited opportunities that may be available to affected persons. Details will be released in due course.
Intellectual Property Matters
The Intellectual Property Office will continue its efforts to educate the public regarding the tremendous opportunities available and the processes by which individuals may benefit from taking advantage of the services of the unit. In the mean time considerable work is being pursued in relation to digitization of the records of the unit in keeping with the national drive towards digital transformation which promotes greater efficiencies and international competitiveness in a modern society.
The foregoing is but a glimpse of the overall vision and direction of the Office of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs. As time progresses, and as the vision unfolds, additional insight will be shared via the website of the Attorney General and Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs as well as via the wider network of communication of the government of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.