Increased Focus On Alternative Dispute Resolution

Increased Focus On Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Ministry of Justice is placing increased focus on alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods, such as restorative justice and meditation, as tools for Jamaicans to settle their disagreements in a peaceful manner, and to reduce the number of cases being placed before the courts.

“It will be the major focus… the need for it is great,” said portfolio Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck.

“The courts are overwhelmed. In the… civil [division of the] parish courts, they have an average of 23,000 cases per year. In the family court, they have an average of 21,000 cases per year and in the criminal [division] in the parish courts, they have an average of 27,500. These are the figures for the last six years,” he pointed out.

Minister Chuck, who was speaking at the opening of the Pembroke Hall Restorative Justice Centre in North West St. Andrew on Tuesday (February 1), said that the Ministry has started using mediation, especially in the civil courts, to reduce the number of cases.

“We have engaged the Dispute Resolution Foundation to start a massive programme where cases in the courts now, for this year, will be referred to mediation… and in time, we want the parish courts to have mandatory mediation before a case is actually tried.

That happens now in the Supreme Court,” he pointed out.

Mr. Chuck noted that restorative justice has been utilised by the parish courts in criminal and family cases with “amazing success”.

“Ninety per cent of the cases are settled once they are referred and now the judges are so eager to send matters to restorative justice,” he shared, adding that the success rate at the restorative justice centres in the communities is over 80 per cent.

The Pembroke Hall Restorative Justice Centre will serve Pembroke Hall, Waverley, Three Oaks, Hughenden, and surrounding areas.

The facility is the eighth stand-alone centre and the nineteenth across the island that offers restorative justice services.

The restorative justice centres form part of the Ministry of Justice’s efforts to improve alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods. The centres are equipped to handle matters related to child diversion, restorative justice, and dispute resolution, among other justice-related issues. They also serve as a point of contact for custodes and justices of the peace (JP).

In welcoming the centre, Minister of Finance and the Public Service and Member of Parliament for North West St. Andrew, Dr. Hon. Nigel Clarke, said it is a more effective way, a cheaper way, a more efficient way of resolving disputes that builds the social capital in your community”.

“It is not only economic capital that makes a country grow. We can have all the skyscrapers, all the 10-storey buildings that we want to have… but if we do not also build social capital it will be for naught, and so this investment is [one] in the social capital of Jamaica but [also] the social capital of North West St. Andrew,” he said.

He urged community members to utilise the services at the facility, and to engage in alternative measures to solve disputes and disagreements peacefully.

President of the Pembroke Hall Citizens Association, Novelete Howell, noted that the facility will be beneficial and thanked all the persons and stakeholders, who have been critical in its development.

WRITTEN BY: CHRIS PATTERSON
SOURCE: JIS news

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