JIS News

Jamaicans are being urged to settle disputes and conflicts amicably through the Alternative Dispute Resolution services offered by the Ministry of Justice.

This appeal comes from Portfolio Minister, Hon. Delroy Chuck, who said this service and others, such as restorative justice and mediation, are offered free of cost in most instances but are underutilised.

“Many serious crimes emerge from simple disputes and disagreements which could have been easily cleared up if the parties were referred to a restorative justice facilitator, a mediator or a counsellor to assist them in reaching an amicable settlement,” he said.

The Justice Minister, who was making his contribution to the 2022/23 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday (May 4), stressed that the country’s crime and homicide rate will not be reduced significantly unless citizens can find lawful, legitimate and appropriate means to diffuse disagreements and conflicts.

Minister Chuck pointed out that persons can access the ministry’s alternative dispute resolution services through the restorative justice centres and victim services division offices that have been established in every parish. There are also the child diversion offices, and very soon, mediation centres will be established in several parishes.

He noted that the practice of restorative justice was introduced in Jamaica in 2012, but has only gained momentum over the past three to four years. However, it has, so far, played an effective role in criminal and family court matters.

“Where the parties have been referred to restorative justice facilitators, the success rate is in excess of 90 per cent,” he said, and that this is normally achieved with the support of family and community members.

In criminal cases, he said, the matters referred are simple misdemeanours where the parties are well known to each other. Restorative justice has been an important tool in successfully restoring their relationships.

“The Ministry’s mission is to get warring families and communities to utilise restorative justice. The emotional benefits have proven to be incalculable when parties in conflict are able to work out their differences. In many cases, the settlements bring hugs, relief and tears,” he said.

Turning to mediation, Minister Chuck highlighted that while it is a useful tool to settle disputes and conflicts, it is also not fully utilised. The Justice Ministry is now promoting the use of mediation to help avoid litigation, under the Ministry’s campaign to have more matters in the courts referred to mediation.

“We know mediation has worked, is working and can work, and we will be ramping up the promotion of mediation right across the island,” he said.

The Minister argued that if 50 per cent of the cases referred to the court can be settled, it is beneficial to everyone “and, therefore, we are urging more potential litigants to try to use mediation rather than to litigate.

“Mediation is a ‘win-win’ situation. Trial brings relief to one side but pain and hurt to the other, and the loser frequently feels there is no justice… . With mediation, the parties control the process; they can decide what they give and what they take and, frequently, both sides are happy and a relationship can be maintained,” he said.

Citing further successes achieved through mediation, the Minister spoke of partnerships with the Dispute Resolution Foundation (DRF) under a pilot project to deliver mediation services to litigants. At the end of the four-month period, which ran from December 1, 2021 to May 31, there was a success rate of 82 per cent.

“The Ministry intends to go beyond mediation in the courts and to urge parties and attorneys to access the service of the DRF or their mediators in the parishes, to mediate even before they file a court action,” he said.

Parties in dispute can visit the justice centres, the victims services offices or DRF, or call TOLL FREE 888 JUSTICE, that is, 888 587-8423.

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