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Loop’s Top Award for 2022: The overall justice system, take a bow! Loop Jamaica

Black Immigrant Daily News

Jamaica’s overall justice system has collectively outperformed any other sector or individual in the society for the year just gone, to earn it the recognition of being cited as the Loop Top Awardee for the Year 2022.

While some other sectors, like tourism under the leadership of Portfolio Minister Edmund Bartlett, have performed creditably over the calendar year, with the hospitality industry noticeably now registering blistering arrival numbers less than a year after being still in the grips of the deadly coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the growth trajectory there was well on the cards from the year before. Also, that kind of robustness has become almost par for the course in the hospitality sector, which has come in for some level of commendation almost every year of the Loop Top Award.

Edmund Bartlett

But far less obvious and flamboyantly, the overall justice system, including Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ surprising move to appoint a first-time legal and constitutional minister; the broad, ongoing justice reform process, the coordinated impact of the Office of the Director of Prosecutions (ODPP), the Judiciary, the Court Administration Division (CAD), and support from the police’s formal investigative arms, plus the backing of the military in law enforcement, have combined to significantly improve both access to, and the overall dispensation of justice, in the country.

It was seemingly part of an unsolved puzzle when then Attorney General, Marlene Malahoo Forte, was appoint as Legal and Constitutional Minister last January, but in just a year, the merits of the move have become more than obvious, with some fundamental legal issues being now well on the way to the kinds of reform that have long been required by the nation in general.

While being somewhat controversial in some regards, matters like the pending Bail Act, the new Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation Act, along with the Road Traffic Act, 2018 and the Road Traffic Regulations, 2022, are fundamental to the dispensation of justice in the country, and collectively, the Justice Ministry, the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Ministry, the ODPP, and the Judiciary, among other critical stakeholders, have evidently put in some serious work to improve the overall justice system.

From broad physical changes and concepts, such as wide-scale introduction of technology to allow for crucial remote elements to court proceedings, the actual realisation, conduct and almost completion of the single largest criminal gang trial supposedly in the entire region, the decisive outcome of the disturbing Rushane Barnett multiple murder case, along with increased plea bargaining output generally, and continuous justice and mediation training especially at the community level, it was all happening in 2022.

Physical court improvements, justice centres established and being promoted for use nationally, video linking of court facilities, the long-awaited single-system connectivity to fully capture breaches of the now Road Traffic Act, the new Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulation) Act, and the pending Bail Act amendment, were all centrally under focus last year, in some cases just for completion, and are expected to positively impact the overall justice system this year and onwards.

Yes, the dreaded crime monster remains, but with new laws like the Firearms (Prohibition, Restriction and Regulations) Act and the amended Bail Act in the making, plus clearly improved police investigative capacity, and the broad and steady input of members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) in law enforcement in support of the justice system nationally, it does appear that there is quite a likelihood of some better days ahead, courtesy of the overall justice system, to which this year’s top honour is awarded.

With tourism already cited as another notable contender for the top award, similar commendations are in order for Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Minister, Olivia Grange, predominantly for successfully steering the ship to deliver a superb general execution of the Jamaica 60 celebrations, including across the main Jamaican diaspora communities.

Olivia Grange

Also, that ministry has earned commendations for the relatively smooth reopening of the local entertainment sector, which had been under almost complete lockdown for quite some time during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Likewise, though incomplete and not without some obvious issues, Finance and the Public Service Minister, Dr Nigel Clarke, has to be also cited positively for guiding the seemingly significant execution of the mammoth and fundamental task of implementing the new public sector wage compensation system across a broad spectrum of the public service by yearend 2022.

Additionally, there are the pluses of clear signs of the country moving towards the adoption of a digital currency, this under the stewardship of Clarke as Finance Minister.

Dr Nigel Clarke

And although seemingly going somewhat unnoticed yearly, the work and impact of the team led by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis was again heavily on show in 2022.

Of course, the on-field successes of national sprint sensations, Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce and Shericka Jackson, who took the spotlight in dramatic form in the female sprints at the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregan, United States, weighed heavily in the mix, and were highlighted in the Sports Personality of the Year awards.

Additional mentions are mainly at the community level, where heroism seemed to have been widely present across the year. Firstly, the February 2 incident in which a Jamaica Public Service (JPS)-related power line contractor ended up being struck by electricity and left impaled on live light wire in Trench Town, St Andrew, and being bravely taken down from the power line, ranked heavily in terms of heroics, although the victim, Ainsley Scott, ultimately died of his injuries in hospital.

Then there was the case of four co-workers travelling in a car who noticed the perceived abduction of a schoolgirl in the Mountain View Avenue area of St Andrew, near the National Stadium, in March, and took the risk of trailing a taxi driver who was involved and honking their car horn at the red-plated Toyota Probox motorcar.

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Having earlier seen one of the child’s legs being outside of the moving vehicle, and her being held by the throat by the taxi driver, the co-workers persisted until the girl who proved to be only 12 years old, was eventually shoved out of the vehicle while it was still in motion, though then partially on the sidewalk of a road.

For their combined efforts, the four co-workers were presented with well-earned Badges of Honour for Gallantry at the National Heroes Day presentations at King’s House in October.

Likewise, the case of 22-year-old Tyrese Bailey, who saw a woman drowning in the deep and choppy waters of the sea on the Kingston waterfront in November, and readily jumped in to save her life, was similarly commendable.

Tyrese Bailey

To perhaps cap it all on the side of heroics, the case of taxi driver Dane Turner, who, in a November report, indicated that he had the experience of observing one of his female passengers in a highly emotional and seeming life-taking mode.

That led to Turner taking quite some time out of his usual rounds of operation to successfully bring the woman to a point of getting her help and preventing her from taking her life.

Dane Turner

Interestingly, the unusual experience ended up with Turner being ticketed by the police in the process of him having deliberately broken several road traffic laws (running red lights etc) in his bid to grab the attention of law enforcers to help save his passenger’s life.

The central outcome of that incident – saving the woman’s life – was not just smashing for Loop’s last Good News Day, but definitely a good look for the year 2022.