Attorney General Explains the Digitalization of the Country’s Legal System

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Sen. the Hon. Carl Bethel presented his Contribution to the 2021/22 Budget Debate in the Senate on June 24, 2021. (BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Sen. the Hon. Carl Bethel said the world has changed and been transformed overnight.

“Ninety-eight per cent of meetings are now done virtually, including all court hearings in the Court of Appeal,” the AG said during his Contribution to the 2021/22 Budget Debate in the Senate on June 24, 2021.

“In all three branches of the Courts, i.e. Magistrates Courts, Supreme Courts and Court of Appeal, payments for all manner of services can be done cashless by using a credit or debit card or using one of the electronic money providers.”

He also noted that the new Bail Management System to allow persons on bail to check in electronically will commence in July, 2021. The Industrial Tribunal will be launching and enhancing its e-filing with its new electronic connection to and integration with the Department of Labour.

“A world transformed indeed and I am proud to state that the Office of the Attorney-General and Ministry of Legal Affairs has kept pace and been revolutionized right along with it.” The AG explained that the Judiciary commenced its court modernization and
reform initiative referred to as COMRIN, prior to the onset of COVID-19. One of the main objectives of this initiative was to make the court processes more efficient through the greater use of technology thus transforming the courts into paperless courts. The initiatives include the following:-

  • the digitization of the court files;
  • the implementation of the ICMS (Integrated Case Management System) in all of the Courts (Magistrates, Supreme Courts and the Court of Appeal) which will facilitate e-filing;
  • the Bail Management system in the Magistrates and Supreme Court;
  • the implementation of Digipay in New Providence in the Magistrates Courts, Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal;
  • the Court Automated Payment System (CAPS);
  • the establishment of The Bahamas Judicial Education Institute (BJEI) and
  • the recent appointment by the Judicial and Legal Service Commission (JLSC) of five Judges and four Magistrates all collectively contributes to the objective of increasing efficiencies and assisting with the reduction in the backlog of cases which will also contribute to this objective. It will also assist in greatly reducing the backlog of cases which can occur for a myriad of reasons which include the transport of files from the various registries to the judicial officers (where files are routinely misplaced in this movement). The increase of judicial officers will replace those who retired or who were elevated to a higher court.

The AG stated that the Judiciary has established its own Digitization Unit which is expected to commence training in how to scan directly into the Integrated Case Management System (ICMS) in July, 2021. He said the Anchor Group (the vendor for the ICMS) will commence the training of the staff of this unit in early July, 2021. The unit itself will be responsible for scanning files post December, 2020 and any other files not scanned by ZCOM. The software to be used by the unit is based on the ICMS, which will allow for significant cost savings to the Judiciary.