Sykes bats for written transcripts for every trial locally Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Chief Justice Bryan Sykes says efforts should be made to ensure that a written transcript is provided for every trial locally, and at a faster rate.

Sykes said the current practice where transcripts from the notes of evidence are only produced when there is an appeal or retrial is unhealthy. 

“We want to move from that (to) where every trial has a written transcript, so 20 (or) 30 years from now someone may wish to find out what happened in this particular case, it is available,” declared Sykes. 

He was speaking at Friday’s handing over of 30 stenographer machines and 30 laptops to the judiciary. The ceremony was held at the UWI Regional Headquarters in St Andrew, and also featured a demonstration of the use of the machines. 

The donation of the equipment was made under the Social Justice (So-JUST) initiative. So-JUST is funded by the High Commission of Canada in Jamaica, and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Multi Country Office in Jamaica.

The new devices are intended to be used to enhance the skills and capabilities of the justice sector’s workforce, and address challenges that have been faced by court reporters and stenographers locally.

With the new equipment now available, Sykes said the justice system must be more efficient.

“The other thing, too, we have to see this as part of improving the efficiency of the courts. We must move away from the long-hand writing by the judges,” he indicated.

“… And what we are saying now to the steno writers is that the question of upgrading the skills to make best use of the machines is paramount.

“We have to get to the point where the judges, lawyers and all the relevant parties to a trial, particularly a criminal trial, can get the transcript the same day,” Sykes indicated. 

Concerns were raised earlier this year when a lack of stenographers or court reporters at some Circuit Courts locally, led to the adjournment of some cases and the delaying of criminal trials. 

Court reporters or stenographers document verbatim everything which is said during Circuit Court hearings island-wide and in civil cases, producing a transcript which is essentially the official record of everything that takes place during a court proceeding.

In fact, a professional court reporter or steno writer in Jamaica is expected to write at a speed of 225 words per minute (wpm), with a 97 per cent level of accuracy. 

Additionally, they prepare the notes for judges on a daily basis, and prepare transcripts of cases that are being appealed.

Due to shortages, however, some judges in criminal and civil proceedings often have to take their own notes of evidence, especially at the parish court level.