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MONTEGO BAY — The new Lucea Family Court was officially opened on Thursday August 18, by the Minister of Justice, the Hon. Delroy Chuck.

Completion of the courthouse is seen as a “dream come through” for the people of Hanover, who have been without an official Family Court building for more than a decade. The previous structure was deemed unfit, and cases had to be tried in the Lucea Resident Magistrate’s Court.

The modern facility, built by the Government with assistance from the European Union's Poverty Reduction Programme II at a cost of $92 million, boasts two courtrooms, three counselling rooms, two judges' chambers, children's waiting area and holding areas for young offenders, nursing and play areas, two interview rooms, office space for counselors and probation officers and other facilities.

Delivering the Keynote address at the opening ceremony, Mr. Chuck observed the shortage of Justices of the Peace (JPs) in Jamaica, and called on the Custos of Hanover, Dr. David Stair, to ensure that more JPs are appointed to assist in clearing the backlog of cases in the parish.

"As you will notice, the need for JPs is extremely great, because we need more to serve in the Petty Session (Lay Magistrate) courts, and it is unfair that we can only rely on a few persons to serve when, if we had more JPs we could spread the burden around some more,” Mr. Chuck said.

He called on JPs who will be involved with restorative and community justice programmes and child justice policies, including community justice tribunals and mediation tribunals, to reach out to “wayward fathers or wayward parents" who negate their responsibilities, and believe that other persons, or the Government, should shoulder their responsibilities.

He also called on staff of the courts, the police and other stakeholders across Jamaica, to ensure that court time is effectively utilized and that the people benefit.

"I am saying that we need to find ways and means to deliver more efficiently, in a timely manner, the cases," Mr. Chuck said.

Head of the European Union (EU) delegation in Jamaica, Ambassador Marco Mazzochi Alemanni, said that the country has come a far way in enforcing the rights of children, and ensuring that they are protected.

“We must be able to protect them and to enable them to grow up in  violence-free and crime-free communities, while having access to decent education and health care facilities”, the Ambassador argued.

Chief Justice Hon. Zaila McCalla observed that more of the rights of the nation’s children will be focused on, with the construction of the Lucea Family Court.

“In our efforts to honour our international treaty obligations and conventions regarding the rights of children in the court system, we have the responsibility to ensure that these rights are safeguarded,” she pointed out.

                                                           

By GLENIS ROSE, JIS Reporter