Less than three months after it opened its doors for operation, the Sexual Offences Court is reporting that it has heard some seven cases and seen five convictions.
Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George told the Department of Public Information (DPI) recently that the operation of the court is moving ahead smoothly. Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall currently presides over the Sexual Offences Court.
The average length of a trial is approximately four days. The longest so far has been eight days and the shortest three days, the Chief Justice said.“We think the court is working fairly well, we are going to do an analysis of the stats of the court in the coming weeks to have a formal assessment of how it is working, but from all reports, it is going fairly smoothly,” Justice George told DPI.
Justice George said the courtroom is a purpose-built facility where judges are required to manuscript the evidence manually. It also has an audio-visual room for witnesses to testify.
The Sexual Offences court is housed in the Supreme Court and represents the commitment of the judiciary to be responsive to the concerns raised in society about the conduct of trials of sexual offences cases.
Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards at the opening of the court in November last year, said victims and witnesses of sexual offences require specialist treatment. She said if the process is not handled carefully, it can pose secondary trauma to them.
As such, the idea of a specialist court dealing with everyone involved was birthed. A court that would provide justice for all, she noted.
The court has a panel of eminent judges including Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall, Justice Joanne Barlow, Justice Navindra Singh, Justice James Bovell-Drakes and Justice Brassington Reynolds whose functions are rotated. Witnesses also have a special room to give their testimony, while a panel of support staff is being overseen by the Chief Justice.
Looking ahead, Justice Cummings Edwards had said the service will be taken to Berbice and Essequibo, the two-sub registries that have supreme courts.
“They are also looking at training for the persons involved in dealing with the sexual offences matters. Training will be provided by two Trinidad and Tobago specialists in sexual abuse and psychologist and judge with years of experience trying sexual abuse matters,” she said. (DPI)