Jamaicans are being encouraged to utilise alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services offered by the Government, through the Ministry of Justice, to settle conflicts amicably outside the courts.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, made the call while addressing the Legal Aid Council Justice Fair in Santa Cruz, St Elizabeth, on Friday (June 24).
“We want every single Jamaican to appreciate that when they get into conflicts with their neighbours and families, that they don’t have to take it out on one another. Services are available, not only of other Ministries, but certainly of the Ministry of Justice in every single parish,” he indicated.
“We have victim service, child diversion for children who are wayward, we have restorative justice so that people can learn… how to get along with one another and, indeed, if they get into conflict over land, wages or anything, they can access mediation services,” the Minister added.
Mr. Chuck maintained that increased use these interventions would help in reducing backlogs in the courts.
He noted that the judicial system is “overburdened” with in excess of 70,000 cases and over 100,000 traffic offenses listed in the parish courts annually.
The Minister pointed out that resolving all these matters in any single year would prove challenging.
He said, however, that increased use of ADR services to resolve simple cases and family matters would enable the courts to focus on civil and criminal matters.
“So, even though the courts are available to resolve conflicts, you [citizens] can be proactive and, together, see if you can work it out without having to burden the courts,” the Minister added.
“We intend that [people] in every nook and cranny should know about the alternative justice services that they can access to resolve their disagreement, their disputes, and conflicts,” Mr. Chuck further stated.
Approximately $100 million is being provided through the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to fund ADR services as well as other restorative justice activities.
The Justice Ministry has been undertaking an islandwide public education campaign focusing on the use of these interventions.
Persons can access ADR services through the restorative justice centres and Victim Services Division offices that have been established in each parish.
Additionally, there are child diversion offices, with mediation centres to be established in several parishes soon.
During the fair, residents of Santa Cruz were sensitised on the various Ministry agencies they can engage to receive legal support, counselling, mediation and other justice related services.
Stakeholder partners in the day’s proceedings included the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Jamaica Constabulary Force, Office of Utilities Regulation, and Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency.