With violence-related cases clogging the courts, the Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, wants more persons to make use of dispute resolution avenues in order to settle disagreements.
He says there is a propensity to resolve conflicts with violence, which is adding to the burden of the courts.
“People are using violence, threats and brutish stupidity to settle arguments. And as far as I am concerned, we need fewer matters to come to the courts. That is why we are training justices of the peace (JPs) and other stakeholders, so we can mediate instead of litigate and we can engage more in plea bargaining,” Mr. Chuck said.
He was addressing a press conference held at the Ministry’s Constant Spring Road offices, on Thursday (October 11).
The Chief Justice’s Statistics Reports for the Parish Courts for the period January-June 2018, show that the three most frequent criminal charges filed in the parish courts were assault occasioning bodily harm, unlawful wounding and threats.
The reports noted that 82 per cent of the matters in the courts were committed by males, with the dominant age group of offenders being young men; 26.99 per cent were 20 to 26 years old; and 29.34 per cent were 27 to 36 years of age.
The Justice Minister said that through the Restorative Justice Programme, the Ministry is hoping to train at least 3,000 restorative justice facilitators within schools and communities across the island.
In addition, more justice centres will be opened, which will enable citizens to access a wide range of services, including mediation, restorative justice, child diversion and victim compensation.
Minister Chuck further mentioned the use of child diversion, which is a process of dealing with children who are alleged, accused or recognised to have infringed the penal law, without resorting to the formal judicial proceedings.
The Child Diversion Act was passed in both Houses of Parliament earlier this year.
“The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is coming on board with us and I know our international partners will help us to ensure that when we roll out child diversion, that we are able to assist our children, not only to resolve their problems, not only to conform with acceptable behaviour but when they do get into trouble to divert them away from the court system,” he stated.
Mr. Chuck said under the programme, children 17 years and under who have committed most minor offences will be diverted away from the court system.
“For more significant offences, if they go to the courts, the parish court judges will be sensitised. If, in appropriate cases, the offender can be retrained, rehabilitated, redirected, then that offender can be redirected by a child diversion officer to keep them from the formal system,” he noted further.