Justice Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, says the Government is looking to strengthen the use of mediation and restorative justice to settle minor and in some cases complex matters, without going to court.
Work is under way to draft the Mediation Act as well as update the Restorative Justice Act.
Minister Chuck said that the increased use of these alternative dispute resolution methods will speed up the delivery of justice and help to reduce the backlog of cases before the courts.
“We have far too many matters going to court. The end result is that cases are now being set for 2025, 2026 and in some cases 2027. To my mind, when you set matters so far down the road – beyond the next three years – I believe that for the litigants it’s a lose-lose situation. There is no way either party benefits from having a matter drag on for years,” he noted.
“Therefore, when the Mediation Act is finalised and passed in Parliament, my great hope is that more litigants will seek to use mediation, because when you use mediation, it is a win-win situation,” he said.
Minister Chuck was addressing a recent Think Tank at the Jamaica Information Service’s head office in Kingston.
Restorative justice works through a facilitator using techniques intended to mend relationships and achieve conflict resolution for the victim, offender and in some cases the community. Mediation is an assisted negotiation technique involving an impartial third party helping persons involved in conflict to arrive at a settlement.
Minister Chuck also said for these methods to work, both parties must be willing to “give and take”.
“We must get away from the posture of ‘it’s all or nothing’. We have to be careful that when we go for all or nothing, we might end up getting nothing, and so mediation is extremely important,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Minister Chuck is lauding the work of the restorative justice centres in Jamaica. He said that the referral of parish court cases to the centres has resulted in the reduction of the backlog of cases before the courts.
“Where there is a fairly minor matter, the parish court judges are now referring litigants to restorative justice and that, definitely, has eased the burden on the courts and the backlog is being dealt with in a very timely manner. We hope, even now, that more matters will be referred to restorative justice by the courts,” Minister Chuck said.
The Justice Minister is encouraging citizens to make use of the restorative justice and justice centres, which are strategically located across the island.
“What we have done is to put together justice centres, at least one in every parish. We also have restorative justice centres in many communities, including Trench Town, Tivoli, Denham Town, Spanish Town, Granville and many communities across Jamaica.
“We hope that where there are simmering conflicts, that oftentimes end up in violence, that at the initial stages, respectable members in the communities, the police officers and Justices of the Peace (JPs) can get the parties to go to the restorative justice centres and resolve as many of these disputes as possible,” Minister Chuck said.