Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi says there will be 12 virtual courts in operation across the country by next week.
In announcing the expansion of his ministry’s operations during the Ministry of Health’s virtual daily press conference yesterday, Al-Rawi said there will be four virtual courts at the Golden Grove Prison, four at the Maximum Security Prison, one at the Eastern Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre, one at the Women’s Prison, one at the Port-of-Spain Jail and one at the Youth Training Centre.
The AG said six had been in operation over the past few weeks, with one of the virtual courts used to hear the emergency lawsuit filed by talk show host Ian Alleyne over his continued hospitalisation at the Caura Hospital, where he is being treated for COVID-19.
Al-Rawi said the establishment of the virtual courts would save the country significant costs otherwise spent on prisoner transport.
“We spend $80 million TT dollars a year in prisoner transport to and from the courts. Eighty million dollars on average, anyway from $60 to $80 million. The innovation of the judiciary and in particular the executive court administrator, master Christie-Anne Morris-Alleyne, had come to significantly save this country money,” the Attorney General said.
He could not give the cost of establishing the courts but noted they were able to make considerable saving because they used containers to build them.
“The containers were purchased for a matter of a couple thousand dollars. And then we entered into the retrofitting of them. I couldn’t give you the cost of that, but it’s a very modest cost in relation to that,” he said.
“Cabinet approved immediately, the IT structures to hire the personnel etc to do it and we’re busy afoot at creating these 12 courts across the system as I’ve identified. So whatever it is, it is significant, but it is a legacy entity because we are going to use it continuously.”
However, before the press conference was done, the AG confirmed that two of the containers used for the virtual courts were purchased for $70,000 each.
Al-Rawi said the containerised courts were not the Government’s first choice in terms of establishing a remote court system, but he said it was a step towards a potential real time court system which could aid in emergency hearing such as domestic violence cases.
On the matter of domestic violence, the Attorney General said his office and the Ministry of National Security was “hard at work in operationalising the Electronic Monitoring System.”
He said they were planning to bring a bill before Parliament to bring the system to life.
“This is important as to how we manage prisoners who may be released in Trinidad and Tobago and it’s also connected to the issue of domestic violence,” he said.
The T&T Police Service recently announced that they had seen an increase in domestic violence during the Stay-at-Home measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.