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Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Dorothy Lightbourne, has emphasised that mediators and other stakeholders in the justice system, need to uphold a “gold” standard of service, like that displayed by the country’s athletes at the Beijing Olympic Games, as they carry out their duties.
In the meantime, she has reaffirmed her commitment to maintaining a gold standard for the justice system.
“The delivery of justice is a sacred trust. Those who need to interface with our justice system, deserve and desire a gold standard like that attained by and displayed by our Olympians in Beijing. I am committed to that objective, and meet with you in recognition of the important role you play in the ambitious transformation, upon which we have embarked,” she explained.
Miss Lightbourne made the comment during a Michaelmas meeting for Supreme Court Civil Mediators, in the Training Room of Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI), in Kingston on September 9.
According to the Minister, the challenge and obligation is to provide the required resources to assist mediators and other stakeholders.
“Our challenge and obligation, as the Ministry of Justice, is to provide a range of resources, personnel, and services to litigants and the Bar, to assist them in effectively handling disputes, whether they are commercial disputes involving millions of dollars, complex disputes involving numerous parties, or land disputes between families and neighbours,” she noted.
The Justice Minister also pointed out that the gold standard by which the Ministry should operate, forms part of a modern justice system.
“The modern justice system for Jamaica, is intended to instill confidence and pride in our citizens, and provide timely, cost effective, and appropriate outcomes. The sense of ownership engendered by this gold standard service will, we believe, enhance accountability and transparency in the public sector and its partners, through citizens empowered to ask the right questions,” Miss Lightbourne stated.
Continuing, she said that “Jamaica’s enhanced place in the world as a strong magnet to investors, travellers, international development partners, colleagues in the global community, and to our own Diaspora, will be justice dividend.”
The Justice Minister explained that definitions for mediation vary, but that most people agree on the purpose of the process, which is to assist people in reaching voluntary resolution of a dispute or conflict. She further added that mediation is useful in a number of cases.
“We understand that there is appropriate use of mediation in many circumstances. For example, in continuing relationships such as employment/labour disputes; ‘one shot’ deals such as personal injury cases; environmental, regulatory and public policy disputes; small claims, even without the parties having to resort to the judicial system, and complex and multi-party litigation, as some cases are too large for the courts to handle, will and can benefit from a carefully structured mediation process,” Miss Lightbourne informed.
However, the Minister contends that it is difficult to determine whether or not cases exist where mediation should not be used.
“Many lawyers, judges, and parties contend that mediation is appropriate in nearly every case, conflict or dispute, at least as a first step,” she emphasised.
According to Miss Lightbourne, mediation will have greatly impacted the justice system, within five years.
“The use of mediation in the Supreme Court Civil jurisdiction is expected, over the next five years, to create early disposition of both civil and criminal matters. [This] along with our strategies to increase the number of Supreme Court judges, provide additional Supreme Court rooms downtown, improve technology, introduce community tribunals, expand restorative justice, and improve competencies of court staff,” the Justice Minister disclosed.
The Government of Jamaica, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), have provided funding to implement this successful model of Dispute Resolution, which is widely used by businesses and courts in the United States of America (USA), Hong Kong, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom (UK). Over the last 12 months, the Jamaican mediators have disposed of over 600 cases.