Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira speaks at the launching ceremony of the criminal module of the e-litigation portal. (Photo: ALLISON VAUGHN)

In 2023, the Magistrates’ Court saw 229 new criminal matters, 233 traffic matters and 26 juvenile matters, according to Senior Magistrate Tamia Richards.

“If these trends continue, we expect to see more,” Ms. Richards said.

To help manage the Virgin Islands’ growing caseload, the territory was the first member of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court to implement the criminal module of the ECSC’s e-litigation portal, which digitises the court’s filing and case management systems.

“But I believe that the criminal system is going to test this e-litigation portal,” Ms. Richards warned at the launch ceremony on Friday. “That is going to be the test [of ] how we stand up to the criminal system, because that’s where the bulk of the work is in our jurisdiction.”

In the VI, the e-litigation portal, known as the ELP, has already been in place for civil matters since 2018. Now, the criminal module will be used by the High Court and Magistrates’ Court to process criminal proceedings.

“The criminal courts and the criminal litigation professionals of this territory will now be able to use this uncomplicated web-based service to create and manage criminal litigation case files [and] assist in the name of complaints and indictments — and [it] provides for straightforward filing of depositions, legal permissions and other legal documents,” said Director of Public Prosecutions Tiffany Scatliffe-Esprit. “It will also assist in effective case management, as parties will now have full access to file documents. And this, we hope, will bring expediency within both the High Court and Magistracy for the progression of new cases.”

In addition, Ms. Scatliffe-Esprit said the portal will also help her office reduce its use of paper.

‘A learning process’

Chief Justice Dame Janice Pereira also spoke at the launching ceremony, urging lawyers to “embrace what this software can do.”

“As with everything, it’s a learning process,” she added. “And we know that it will take time to be able to deal with it, operate it with ease. But those of you who will already be familiar on the civil side, this is simply the criminal side to it. And once you have learned those processes, then it ought not to be too difficult to really master how you will conduct your filing, your searches, your case management, your calendaring on that system.”

Mark Ernest, an information technology manager for the ECSC, said the implementation of the platform will not change court staffing.

“Generally, it just involves a reshuffling [and] so forth of their duties,” he explained during a question-and-answer segment of the ceremony.


Access to most documents from criminal cases in the portal will only be available to legal practitioners involved in the case.

There is currently a public case search function on the ECSC’s ELP website through which anyone can search civil cases by case number. Currently, however, this interface applies only to civil matters, according to members of the ECSC technical team.

In the future, however, the ECSC will seek to include public information pertaining to criminal cases as well, they said.

“In the Civil Procedure Rules, it highlights what is accessible to the public,” said ECSC court administrator Gregory Girard. “And even though all of the information … is on the portal, not everything will be accessible via the public interface.”