A list of 29 court cases, some as old as 23 years, have been identified for dismissal by the High Court.
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson revealed this morning that the information came from the preliminary report of the Backlog Reduction Programme, which had been submitted to him. Speaking in the Number One Supreme Court at the opening of the Legal Year 2013 to 2014, Sir Marston said the report dealt with the status of the cases for 1990 to 1991.
“There are now some 29 orders of dismissal which are being prepared for my signature, and another 11 orders for cases which will be calendared for status hearings before me very shortly,” added the chief justice.
“What this means is that we can now move on to the cases from 1992 and 1993. The committee has determined that it is better to work in two-year tranches rather than biting off more than we can reasonably chew.”
He said he felt “very” positive, however, about the work of the committee and the fact that there had been some measure of success, albeit limited. The Chief Justice disclosed too, that the Director of Public Prosecutions has decided to use the procedure of a voluntary bill in some cases, in an effort to address the backlog in criminal cases. “This meant that once the evidence in an indictable case is ready, the DPP will seek the consent of a High Court judge to prefer a voluntary bill and so obviate the need to go through the process of a preliminary inquiry, a procedure which has led to the huge remand problem which we have,” concluded the top judicial administrator.
He added he hoped this initiative could start before the end of this year.
Sir Marston also suggested that the pace of litigation in Barbados was showing no signs of slowing down or abating.
“In 2011 in the High Court, 2,132 civil cases were filed, along with 452 divorce applications, and 1,086 probate applications — a total of 3,670 civil cases,” he revealed.
He added that in 2012, the figure climbed to 3,938 civil filings, comprising 2,273 civil cases, 472 divorce applications and 1,193 probate applications.
“And to report on the filings which face our hardworking magistrates; in 2011, 22,824 matters were filed in the Magistrates’ Court, while in 2012, there were 20,656,” reported Sir Marston.
He reminded the audience, which included jurors, that there was need to change the way business was down in the court, “if we are ever to get ahead of the curve, or the very least keep up with our annual filings”.
Reporting progress on his proposed Alternative Dispute Resolution pilot project announced last year, the Chief Justice disclosed that the roster of high court mediators should be ready no later than the middle of next month.
“The bad news is that we are awaiting the appointment of an ADR Coordinator, who will be responsible for running the programme. Cabinet approval for the post has already been received and we were awaiting the establishment of the post,” added the CJ.
However, he questioned whether that could still happen, in light of the strictures included in the recent budget of Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler. Sir Marston is still hoping that he could have a coordinator to begin the ADR programme next month.
“I say that because one of the positive things which came out of the ADR training, particularly during the practicums, which involved real cases, was the number of attorneys who informed us that they wished to have their cases go through ADR,” declared the leading judge.
He disclosed that the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies, Dr David Berry, had indicated that the faculty was interested in starting a Certificate Programme for the Training of Mediators in Barbados, the fine points of which still had to be worked out.
He said he also expected that the proposed Drug Treatment Court would soon be in operation. (EJ)