Bridgetown, Barbados — Access to regional legal information online is becoming a reality with funding from the government of Canada, through the Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean Project (IMPACT Justice).
The funding is a boost to justice sector reform and goes towards developing online legal database resources. These databases will allow citizens in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states easier access to finding legal information for governing their affairs.
Nineteen volumes of the Caribbean Law Review (CLR), over 41,000 regional judgments, 10,000 pages of the Laws of Barbados and updating the indexes to the laws from most CARICOM countries, form the plethora of information for digitization and placement in online, searchable databases over the course of this year and into 2016.
Professor Velma Newton, regional project director, IMPACT Justice noted that technology must be incorporated into enhancing access to justice.
“Every citizen in the CARICOM region has the right to equal access to justice and the effective use of technology will better assist those who want to access legal information, whether they are from within or outside of the region,” she said.
She added that the project’s baseline research found that the judiciary, attorneys-at-law, academics, students, government administrations, members of the business community and the public often encounter difficulty in obtaining up-to-date case law, treaties, legislation and other regional materials which would enable them to conduct research efficiently.
“A number of on-going activities at the UWI Cave Hill Campus, Faculty of Law already exist in relation to accessing legal research information, but they need to be improved to increase efficiency and effectiveness,” she said. “Improvements for implementation under IMPACT Justice will translate into tangible benefits for the justice sector by making research on the law of individual countries easier and speedier both for justice sector actors and civil society.”
IMPACT Justice is working with Canadian based archival software company, Andornot, to expand CariLaw’s digital database and upgrade its search engine to make it more user-friendly. The Project is also establishing online databases for the CLR and the West Indies Legislative Indexing Project (WILIP) in addition to providing training for those responsible for updating the digital databases.
As part of IMPACT Justice’s activities to establish online databases, the office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel in Barbados, which launched a Legislative Information Management System (LIMS) a few years ago, is also receiving assistance with the final preparatory phase of proofing the Laws of Barbados before they are posted online.