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Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator the Hon. Dorothy Lightbourne, has said that new and peaceful ways must be found to settle disputes and minor offences.
Addressing the launch of the Restorative and Community Justice pilot project yesterday (June 17) at the Grace Baptist Church in May Pen, Clarendon, the Minister noted that not only are too much time and resources being spent in the courts, as person seek redress emanating from disputes, but that these incidents often escalate into violence.
“Small disputes have led to communities being torn apart and, as parties wait for their cases to be completed, tension remains within the community, and this leads those individuals to commit more violent crimes as they try to take justice into their own hands. We must seek to use other methods of resolving our conflicts if we are to regain the values of cooperation and unity that are a part of our heritage,” she stated.
The Ministry of Justice is looking to introduce the principle of restorative justice as means of settling disputes, where the aim is to repair the harm done to the victim, while healing the community, and so reduce the level of violence.
The process will be overseen at the community level by restorative and community justice panels, which will mediate disputes where parties involved are willing to participate, and where it is safe for them to do so.
Each panel will be headed by a Justice of the Peace, who has been trained in restorative justice, and other trained community representatives.
“The aim is to give the community a voice on how the offender will repay the victims. It will be encouraging citizens to share information to ensure that offenders are caught and brought to justice,” Senator Lightbourne explained.
“If the incident is reported at an early stage, it will prevent escalation into violence,” she contended.
Already, restorative and community justice panels have set up in Granville,
St. James; and Spanish Town, St. Catherine; and Tower Hill, St. Andrew.