Minister of State in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Sharon Ffolkes-Abrahams, says that arbitration and mediation will lead to better public sector governance, by reducing the backlog of disputes before the courts and improving the efficiency of the court system.
“Both mechanisms not only help to alleviate the burdensome case load of the courts, but also create impartial forums where aggrieved parties can find an alternative to civil litigation or to criminal charges,” Mrs. Ffolkes-Abrahams said.
She was speaking at the conferment of Fellows of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, held on June 28 at the Courtleigh Hotel, in Kingston. Some 23 legal practitioners were conferred Fellows in the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Caribbean Branch.
The State Minister added that arbitration and mediation help to resolve disputes efficiently, relatively quickly and sometimes confidentially as well.
“I believe therefore that there is a clear role for you as arbitrators. As graduates of the programme, you have a crucial role to play in making this a much more caring and less violent society,” Mrs. Ffolkes Abrahams told the participants.
She further informed that during the period 2009 to 2011, the majority of juveniles before the court were there for wounding, assault, and assault occasioning bodily harm.
For the period, 2009 to 2011, there were a total of 1,807 cases of juveniles before the courts charged with violent crimes. In 2011, some 2,823 cases were filed in the criminal division of the Supreme Court, of which 667 or 23.6 per cent were disposed.
“The total number of cases listed for hearing in the Resident Magistrate’s (RM) courts during the year was 960,009. The majority of these cases, 93.6 per cent, were related to criminal matters. Overall, the disposal rate at the RM courts was 28.3 per cent,” Mrs. Ffolkes Abrahams said.
“We know not how many of these cases might have been prevented from reaching the courts through arbitration or mediation. What is obvious to all of us is that the courts have more cases than they can reasonably handle,” she noted.
During 2011, over 90 per cent of all matters for mediation under the Dispute Resolution Foundation were conducted with a success rate of 60 per cent.
Also during 2011, there was a 24.8 per cent increase in the number of cases conducted at the Supreme Court level, with 45 per cent reaching an agreement, and a 36.7 per cent increase in cases conducted at the RM level reaching an agreement.
In addition, some 1,658 adolescents (984) males aged 13-18 years accessed services under the School Suspension Intervention Programme. Participants were sensitised in areas such as anger management, conflict resolution, and violence reduction.
School-based interventions were conducted with 2,367 young people (1,242 males).
A total of 1,947 parents were sensitised to conflict resolution, restorative and community justice principles, managing anger and mediation procedures through Parent Teachers’ Associations, parenting seminars, and individual counselling sessions.
“What is clear from all the evidence seen is that mediation, or arbitration works. Perhaps where it is most needed is at the point where disputes can be prevented from escalating into violence,” Mrs. Ffolkes Abrahams said.
For his part, Chairman, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, Caribbean Branch, Mr. John Bassie, said that the conferees represent the best of the region’s judicial, legal and intellectual capital.
“The vigour and intensity of preparation and discussions, overnight assignments and the return of these distinguished practitioners to a four-hour examination, all contributed to a highly stressed, intensive and ultimately successful fellowship training programme, and they have all successfully completed their rigorous peer interviews,” Mr. Bassie said.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter