Trinidad and Tobago
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New home for Chief Justice in 2023

Jada Loutoo

CONSTRUCTION of the official residence for the Chief Justice is expected to begin in fiscal 2023, out of an allocation of $265.2 million put aside to build, refurbish and renovate public buildings and offices under the Public Sector Investment Programme (PSIP) 2023.

Conceptual designs were developed and the request-for-proposal document was completed, as well as procuring a design consultancy.

Work to be undertaken in fiscal 2023 includes civil and foundation and superstructure works.

Udecott is tasked to manage the project and its website noted the project includes designing, building and outfitting super-grade housing to accommodate the Chief Justice and his family at 4 Hayes Street, St Clair, Port of Spain.

“The official residence will include living areas, sleeping quarters, study and library, prayer room, fitness centre, swimming pool and indoor and outdoor entertainment facilities befitting the Office of the Chief Justice,” its website said.

Under the PSIP 2023, the Judiciary can expect an allocation of roughly $100 million.

From that, it is expected to continue to develop and roll out its court case-management system, or TT.jim, to include the criminal, traffic, family, children, probate, civil courts and the Court of Appeal.

Also expected to continue in fiscal 2023 is the expansion of the Judiciary’s suite of e-services.

In fiscal 2023, an overall PSIP allocation of $6,164.3 million is proposed for implementing programmes and projects from which the Judiciary’s $100 million comes.

In the last fiscal year, equipment was bought for the police service to facilitate virtual courts. From an allocation of $67.3 million, final outfitting works, which included installing furniture, appliances and carpentry, were 90 per cent complete at the Judiciary’s facilities in Tobago.

As it accounted for court facilities, the PSIP noted virtual access customer centres (VACC) were established at the criminal investigations departments of the police service, at the Mayaro and Rio Claro magistrates’ court and UTT campus in Arima to the tune of $4.8 million.

Construction of three jury courts began in 2022 and is at varying degrees of completion, with one 90 per cent complete and the two others 75 per cent complete, with outfitting being done.

The PSIP also said conceptual designs for the accommodation of the criminal division at the Hall of Justice started, with expenditure of $400,000.

Also in fiscal 2022, the Judiciary continued reconfiguring its video-conferencing centre at the Golden Grove Prison. Costs amounted to $1 million.

Preparatory work for the establishment of the Arima Family Court also began in the last fiscal year, with $2.3 million being used to complete the designs and procure construction materials.

The PSIP said $78.4 will be set aside for the Judiciary to “divisionalise and differentiate case-flow management between family and children, criminal and civil processes.”

With the Judiciary’s civil division moving to Tower D and renamed the Waterfront Judicial Centre, work on the Hall of Justice, as a centre of criminal justice, will continue.

An allocation of $5 million has been set aside to reform the building to accommodate the criminal division and supplementary works will include installing structural and life safety systems, air fans, a water pump and an upgrade of the generator. The PSIP caters for an investment of $1 million for the Hall of Justice in Tobago and $5 million to modify district courts to accommodate specialised court services, including small claims/petty civil, coroner’s, sexual offences and drug treatment courts.

The district courts in Mayaro, Tobago, Rio Claro, Point Fortin, Tunapuna, Couva and Chaguanas will benefit from upgrades, and $8.4 million was set aside for the Port of Spain district court for various upgrades there, including a new paint job.

In 2023, $7.3 million will be provided for continued renovation at the San Fernando Supreme Court and $2 million for expanding and rehabilitating the Siparia district court.

A further $3 million will be provided to the Family Court to expand its services; establish a court in Arima; expand the Port of Spain court; complete the Tobago court; and upgrade the infrastructure of all the courts.

The same amount will be invested in the Children’s Courts in Fyzabad, Port of Spain and Tobago and$1.5 million will be allocated to establish drug treatment courts throughout TT and training for judicial officers.

Some $7 million will also be provided to improve the Judiciary's delivery of services to its customers by developing facilities for jury trials; designing and operating VACCs; establishing customer-care booths, kiosks and mobile facilities; developing a call centre and e-customer service access and information portal; and establishing virtual customer service interfaces for the High Courts.

Although not part of the Judiciary’s allocation, the Equal Opportunity Tribunal (EOT) was not left out of the 2023 PSIP, which says customising and outfitting a building for it are expected in the new fiscal year. The building will be appropriately designed and outfitted to provide for existing staff as well as anticipated staff increases.

The PSIP also caters for continued work at the office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs (AGLA),with the outfitting of the DPP’s offices in San Fernando; the district registrar’s offices and the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority.

Tower C of the International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain, will also be outfitted to facilitate the relocation of the civil law department of the AGLA. The registrar general’s department in San Fernando will move to Gulf City, La Romaine.