Millions of dollars have been apportioned by the government towards a series of initiatives geared at transforming and enhancing the BVI’s justice system.
According to a Cabinet post-meeting statement released Thursday, the government agreed to a proposal considered by the National Security Council (NSC) for funding the Criminal Courts Transformation Programme for the next two years (2021-2023).
The government also agreed to strategies identified in a report given to the NSC to reduce the current backlog in the BVI’s criminal courts.
In consideration of the report titled, “Criminal Courts Transformation: Addressing the Backlog in the British Virgin Islands”, the government agreed to fund an estimated $300,000 in rental fees towards temporary accommodation for a second court.
The expenditure is expected to cover two years and includes costs for outfitting prison cells, air conditioning, and IT systems as well as furniture.
According to the Cabinet statement, the temporary court is expected to be used until the completion of Phase I of the Halls of Justice Building.
The government also approved additional funding to the tune of $617,800 to fill critical legal and administrative positions within its legal departments.
It was also decided that funding for this particular initiative should not exceed $1,097,800.
The funds are expected to be sought through a supplementary appropriation and to be allocated to the relevant accounts, pending its availability, the Cabinet statement said.
The Cabinet also decided to allocate $180,000 to “strengthen the linkages between the criminal justice sector and to build capacity”.
The announcement of the proposed initiatives comes in the wake of an upsurge in serious crime over the past few months, particularly several gun-related murders; with several of them being described by law enforcement officials as drug-related.
Furthermore, the territory has also seen a spate of large-scale drug busts and interceptions, with the most high-profile of these allegedly involving serving members of the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force (RVIPF).