Community Dispute Tribunals Could Ease Court Case Backlogs – PM


Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, has indicated that he will, for public discussion, reintroduce the proposal for community dispute tribunals.
This, Mr. Golding said, would fit into the government’s community-based approach to development, and ease the burden on the country’s courts. “Part of the problem with our justice system is that it is overloaded. We have a backlog at the end of each year of over 400, 00 cases pending in our courts. This has been consistent for the past five to six years. 95 per cent of those are in the resident magistrate court.
Every year, we have 300,000 new cases being filed in court, and we struggle hard to dispose of them. We are disposing of some of them 6 years after the cases actually came to court,” Mr. Golding said.
He was making the keynote address at the awards ceremony for the Better Environments for Social Transformation (BEST) Community competition at the Stella Maris church hall on (Nov. 15).
The Prime Minister said many of the cases had to do with family disputes of one sort or another, as well as minor drug offences.
As it relates to the latter, he noted that, “We are going to have to examine our international treaty obligations, to see whether there is room for us to take a more enlightened approach to dealing with minor drug offences, as a means of getting some of that congestion our of the court system.”
Mr. Golding said many of the cases, which stem from domestic disputes, sit in court for years. However, he said “many of those are disputes which we believe, if we put in the right architecture in the community, could probably be resolved”.
Thus, he said, the government was seeking to explore the possibility of establishing community disputes tribunals, which would engage the services of Justices of the Peace.
“The title of Justice of the Peace suggest a function that has something to do with justice, and an obligation to be part of a process of maintaining the peace , and therefore we want to look at the JPs as perhaps a critical functionary, to work within the community, within the ambit of these community dispute tribunals, so instead of going to the court, can we sit down within the community, with the leaders of the community, and see to what extent we can resolve some of these issues. It would have to be done with the agreement of the disputing parties,” he explained.
Prime Minister Golding emphasized that communities should be empowered, through capacity-building assistance, to allow them to identify, pursue, and implement their own priorities.
With this approach, he said, “there would be less need for big government, as more of government would have been repatriated to where the power comes from in the first place, and that is, the people themselves”.
The BEST Community Competition is an annual national competition that encourages community self-help activities. Patronized by Governor General, His Excellency, the Most Hon. Professor Sir Kenneth Hall, the competition aims to strengthen and improve local communities on a sustainable basis; foster civic engagement, self-reliance, increased partnerships, participation, service to communities and voluntary contributions; and improve the lives of people by providing meaningful opportunities to serve and meet their most pressing needs as part of a community.
Among other things, it also seeks to instill a sense of pride, better values, attitudes and self worth, to unite members in a common cause, that would lead to the needed community actions for spiritual, educational, physical, social and economic development. The competition and programme focuses on eight areas to achieve these goals, including built environment; natural environment; socio-economic environment; education; health and waste management; heritage and culture; and youth development. This year, 132 communities were judged.

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