Sir Marston's plans for justice system

CAROL MARTINDALE, carolmartindale@nationnews.com

Added 24 April 2013

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Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson unveiled a multi-pronged approach to the problems in Barbados’ justice system when he delivered the Sir Arthur Lewis Distinguished Lecture at the UWI Cave Hill Campus on Tuesday night. Sir Marston identified several challenges to the delivery of justice in the traditional court system, and detailed a “systemic problem” with civil cases of which there had been a “crushing number of filings”. He said the problem was exacerbated further with the limited number of magistrates and High Court judges available to dispose of the mounting number of civil and criminal matters being filed in the courts. Of 21 663 cases filed in the magistrate’s court in 2011, only 1 316 were disposed by the 10 magistrates  available to hear these cases. In the High Court the same year there were 2 500 cases to be heard by eight High Court Justices. With such limited resources, Sir Marston said it was difficult to accelerate justice, but he said he was actively seeking solutions. The Chief Justice said he had already been granted six judicial assistants whose function was to assist 13 judges with writing and doing research to get decisions completed. He also recently issued a practice direction to rid the judicial system of a civil backlog of unheard and undetermined cases which had existed since 1990, and said training for mediators in an alternative dispute resolution programme for a roster of mediators, would start in June. In addition, the Chief Justice said he had determined that debt collection cases should be heard by the Supreme Court master and by the registrars, another “stop gap” measure which he said was intended to provide some temporary relief to the judges. The lecture was entitled Accelerating Justice: The UWI in the Justice Process and was organized by the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES). Sir Marston pointed out the UWI’s role extended to the development of “a regional jurisprudence and the provision of legal resources” and he advocated a voluntary internship programme for UWI Law Faculty students, in which they would be assigned to assist judges in various areas. He also identified roles for the UWI students and graduates in government’s Probation and Welfare departments, both of which he said had been under “enormous pressure” to supply reports for cases before the courts. These suggestions were included in a number of proposals Sir Marston said he was formulating to be put to the university, designed to assist in the wider system of jurisprudence in Barbados. (GC)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

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