The Office of the Parliamentary Counsel (OPC) is the department of Government, within the Ministry of Justice which is charged with the responsibility for legislative drafting. It consists of a cadre of parliamentary counsels headed by the Chief Parliamentary Counsel (CPC) and supported by administrative and secretariat staff.
Its mission is to facilitate the Government’s request for the preparation of draft legislation in fulfilment of its annual legislative programme. In pursuance of policy decisions at the Ministry level, the OPC gives counsel to Parliament in the exercise of its law-making powers by providing advice on the draft bills it seeks to enact. In carrying out these functions, the OPC drafts Bills and subsidiary legislation on instructions from client Ministries, advises Ministries on points of law relevant to proposed legislation, and examines and comments on all draft Cabinet submissions related to legislation.
The Government of Jamaica has articulated various legislative measures to address the growing crime rate, tackle corruption, introduce constitutional changes, address gaps in social protection, as well as those required by international conventions to which Jamaica is a signatory. The Government’s National Security Policy has recorded the need for legislation to be continuously reviewed and revised as offenders use new methodologies, technology and other creative ways to avoid prosecution. There is therefore a significant and growing demand for new and revised legislation to treat the above issues.
The purpose of the CFTC project is to strengthen the Government of Jamaica’s ability to respond to the increasing demands for timely and effective legislation. The goal is to enhance the capacity of the Government of Jamaica to develop effective legislation in a timely manner.
The primary focus will be on supplementing the legislative drafting capacity of the Ministry of Justice and in particular the OPC, in the effective and efficient preparation of legislation, notably, criminal and anti-corruption legislation.
Impact will be evidenced by more effective, efficient and equitable public governance and, with national institutions effectively facilitating the administration and delivery of rule of law and justice.
Emerging longer term benefits include:
From commencement, capacity building has improved with the training of legal and administrative personnel in the preparation of adequate drafting instructions and the drafting of legislation relating to crime and anti-corruption. This will serve to bolster capacity within the OPC and in the ministries and departments of Government.
With the approval for passage into law of the Evidence Special Measures (Video Recorded Evidence) (Criminal Proceedings) Regulations and Rules 2015, there will now be afforded to vulnerable witnesses, (children, persons who are mentally or physically challenged, and persons who have been raped or sexual assaulted) some form of protection in the criminal justice system.
Such legislation stands to enhance the justice system in Jamaica and assist with the backlog of cases before the court. The latter is especially true in relation to the amendment to the Criminal Justice Administration Act which provides for the discount in sentencing.