The Port-of-Spain Magistrates’ Court, St Vincent Street, Port of Spain.

Derek Achong

The Government has increased its allocation for renovating court facilities by over 40 per cent in the next year.

According to the Public Sector Investment Programme 2021 document released together with the 2021 budget on Monday, the Government intents to spend $75.4 million on such activity compared to $52.6 million, last year.

Giving an account of expenditure over the last year, the report noted that $5.8 million had been spent on improvement work and equipment for the Family Court in Port-Spain and $2.4 million was spent on the Children’s Court locations in Port-of-Spain and Fyzabad.

It stated that approximately $11 million was spent on construction and outfitting work at several Magistrate’s Courts across T&T.

Approximately $800,000 was spent to convert eight used shipping containers at the Golden Grove Prison in Arouca into a temporary virtual court centre to facilitate hearings of criminal cases for remanded prisoners during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Additionally, of the $67.3 million that was allocated for providing allocation of suitable accommodation for several ministries, the Judiciary benefitted from the construction of accommodation for judicial officers in Tobago.

Some of the money was used for facilities for the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in Port of Spain and San Fernando and to house the newly formed Public Defenders Office, which falls under the Legal Aid and Advisory Authority.

In the next fiscal year, the Government intends to spend $8.6 million to complete the permanent virtual court centre at the prison, which has stood incomplete for several years.

The Hall of Justice in Port-of-Spain is expected to be modified for its new role in hearing on criminal cases at a cost of $3 million, while $1 million will be spent on improvement work at the Hall of Justice in Tobago.

Almost $32 million was allocated to perform infrastructure work at several other courthouses including the relocation of the civil divisions of the High Court and Court of Appeal to the area of the International Waterfront Centre, which temporarily housed Parliament during renovations to the Red House.

The Family and Children’s Court is also set to receive an allocation of more than $7 million to improve its building and services inclusive of a new Children’s Court in Tobago and a Family Court in Arima.

According to the draft estimates of expenditure for the next fiscal year, also released on Monday, the Judiciary is set to receive an almost $500 million allocation, which is mostly used to pay salaries and for goods and services required for its diverse operations.