Evidence Act now in effect

Kingston, Jamaica — The Ministry of Justice today announced that the Evidence (Special Measures) Act 2012 and the Evidence (Special Measures) (Video Recorded Evidence) (Criminal Proceedings) Regulations 2015 were brought into effect on July 2.

The Evidence (Special Measures) Act provides for the admissibility of evidence in criminal proceedings and Coroner’s inquests by witnesses, using a live link or a video recording of the testimony. A live link refers to a technological set-up whereby a witness is not physically present in court, but is able to see and hear what is taking place in the courtroom and be seen and heard by the parties in the courtroom, the Justice Ministry explained in a release.

The Act facilitates the giving of evidence by vulnerable witnesses, such as children under 18 years old who are victims of sexual offences, and witnesses who are unlikely to be available to the court due to fear for their lives. It may also assist where the witness has a physical disability or mental disorder necessitating these special measures.

The Act may be used in criminal proceedings before the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Resident Magistrate Court, Family Court, Children’s Court, Gun Court, Circuit Court or any other court designated by the minister. It allows the court to take into account the expense that would be incurred in bringing the witness to attend the proceedings, or any logistic difficulties in the witness attending the proceedings.

Provision is also made in the Civil Procedure Rules for the admissibility of evidence given via video link in civil matters.

It is expected that this legislation will reduce delays in trials relating to the unavailability of witnesses to give their testimony in court, and will improve access to justice in cases where victims or key witnesses are vulnerable due to their age or other relevant circumstances.

One court room at the Corporate Area Criminal Court has already been retrofitted to accommodate the measures allowed by the Act, and the preparations for these facilities at the Supreme Court are far advanced, the ministry said.

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