The Turks and Caicos Islands has launched a portal to provide its populace with free and easy access to judicial information. The portal, referred to as the Turks and Caicos Islands Legal Information Institute (TCILII), is the first of its kind in the Caribbean and can be found at tcilii.org.
The judiciary-led initiative is to ensure that legal practitioners and the public alike, have free access to legal material necessary to advance and inform the protection of their legal rights.
The initiative is one driven by the new Chief Justice Mabel Agyemang, who in brief remarks said the need for an informed bench cannot be overemphasised. Agyemang remarked, “An independent, impartial, honest and competent judiciary is integral to upholding the rule of law, engendering public confidence and dispensing justice.” She said it is a blot on jurisprudence for any court to give decisions which simply fly in the face of binding decisions of higher courts.
The CHief Justice added, “Therefore, it is for this reason that every effort must be made to ensure that decisions of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal, which are courts of record, are made accessible to members of the bench, the legal fraternity, and indeed the entire public.”
TCILII is now one of many legal information institutes in the world, notable among which are WorldLII, CanLII (Canada), BAILII (British and Irish LII) and AustLII (Australia).
The institutes are produced by non-profit organisations which promote legal information through structured and monitored internet law reporting, and the provision of legal resources.
Madam Agyemang explained that they do so to encourage competent and informed work in courts throughout the world.
The institutes have become a useful tool for lawyers throughout the Commonwealth as they are a
repository of decided cases, accessible to everyone, often at no cost, and, very importantly, in a searchable format, she added.
Finding relevant cases on any question of law is often as easy as entering keywords.
The chief justice noted that the TCI, without a system of law reporting, currently relies on the institutional knowledge of its bench, and the Bar for local precedents.
Among her first orders of business upon her appointment on April 1 this year, the chief justice requested that the portal be established.
TCILII is built and hosted by AfricanLII, a programme of the Democratic Governance and Rights Unit at the Department of Public Law, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Madam Agyemang stated that knowing the track record of AfricanLII, and also being affiliated with its parent organisation DGRU, she sought them out to explore the possibility of providing TCI with its own legal information institute.
That work from AfricanLII was provided free of charge to the Turks and Caicos Islands.
She noted that TCILII will mean accessible judgments to everyone, and it is her hope that future judgments will be informed by binding decisions of TCI courts.
TCILII committee was made up of Justice Tanya Lobban-Jackson as chair, Renee McLean – Registrar of the Supreme Court, Nalini Shiwram-Kulpa – Court Administrator, Selvyn Hawkins – Representative of the Bar Association, Kerchelle Bain – Secretary of the Bar Association, Desiree Downes – Principal Crown Counsel, Legislative Drafting Division at the Attorney General’s Chambers, Gogontle Gatang – Senior Crown Counsel, Legislative Drafting Division – Attorney General’s Chambers, Clemar B Hippolyte – Principal Crown Counsel, Civil and Commercial Litigation Attorney General’s Chambers, and Tamika Grant – Crown Counsel at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The portal contains judgements from the TCI Supreme Courts, Court of Appeal and Privy Council, dating as far back as 1997.
HT: Turks & Caicos Weekly News