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    Three communities are to benefit from a pilot project for the development of community justice tribunals as the Ministry of Justice presses forward with efforts towards the practice of restorative justice in Jamaica.
    “As a supporting mechanism, we are moving forward with the community justice tribunals and this is one of the key pledges that the government has advanced,” said the Senior Director of Strategic Planning, Policy Research and Evaluation at the Ministry, Peter Parchment.
    The pilot communities, in which Peace and Justice Centres managed by the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF) operate, are: Granville, St. James; May Pen, Clarendon and Spanish Town, St. Catherine. Mr. Parchment said that a fourth community is to benefit but it has not yet been identified.
    He explained that through the community tribunals, “communities will have an opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue towards resolving their conflicts in a community setting.” The proceedings will be presided over by Justices of the Peace (JPs) and he outcome of the process is enforceable by the courts, he said.
    According to Mr. Parchment “one of the key criteria in selecting communities (for) restorative justice practices is the level of community organisation and the level of observed conflict in the community.”
    He said the expectation is that “through increased community involvement, increased capacity building and more information delivery to communities, we will be in a better position as a nation to embrace the principles and practices of restorative justice.”
    The community justice tribunals will be a key agenda topic at the upcoming third International Conference on Restorative and Community Justice being hosted by the Ministry of Justice at the Knutsford Court Hotel later this month.
    Addressing a Think Tank held yesterday (May 14) at the JIS Half-Way-Tree Road headquarters, Justice Reform Coordinator, Beverley Little, informed that day-two of the conference will examine the pilot communities.
    “We will look at the communities we are piloting and everybody will kind of gather together. Organising community justice tribunals is going to be the nexus of the discussions and we are looking at what is required, the structure, resources, locations that we need, designing services for youth and vulnerable groups,” she explained.
    In the meantime, Mr. Parchment emphasised that restorative justice will not replace the formal judicial system.
    “The restorative justice process is a supporting mechanism to the formal justice system so it’s not a replacement to what currently obtains” he stated, noting that “legislation currently allows for mediation to take place within the Supreme and Resident Magistrate’s courts and the advancing of restorative justice programmes in Jamaica is to strengthen the provisions that are already in place.”
    Pointing out that the DRF achieved a 60 per cent success rate in mediation in 2007 Mr. Parchment declared that “mediation works and the mechanisms that are used for restorative justice will work.”
    The International Restorative Justice Conference will be held on May 27 and 28, commencing 8:30 a.m. both days.

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