Starting in September, civil court cases will undergo court-annexed mediation before a judge hears them.
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson made the announcement during his feature address at the Conflict Resolution Solutions: The Principles of Community Mediation and Restorative Practices programme launch by IMPACT at the Valley Resource Centre, Glebe, St George.
Sir Marston disclosed that the mediation initiative would be mandatory in the Supreme and Magistrates’ court. He said mediation is expected to reduce the number of civil cases heard in the courtroom. However, administrative justice act, bail applications, family cases and land title proceedings are excluded from court mediation.
“A lot of times people come into court and they sue for damages but really the damages are not what they want and they usually want relief that we in the courts cannot grant,” said the chief justice.
“What mediation does is also allows the court, or in the context of the court, for a matter to b resolved with the parties agreeing among themselves to types of resolutions that we cannot order them to do,” he continued.
The chief justice revealed that the judicial system has been working towards mediation programmes since 2013 but was unable to further develop the practice due to the lack of trained mediators inland. However, that has changed since the number of mediators has increased to 44 since August 2018 and an additional ten are expected to be on board by the end of the year.
Sir Marston also indicated that if the cases were sent for mediation and both parties were unable to pay the $500 mediator’s fee to the Supreme Court, they will undergo a means test.
“We have included a form which is essentially a means test. They will fill the form out and we will look at their income and based on what is recorded in that form we will decide whether or not we believe that this party or these parties can or cannot afford mediation. In which case we will direct that the mediator performs per bono. The whole idea is to make sure service is inclusive and not exclude persons who cannot afford a mediator,” Sir Martson explained.
Individuals can also file an application for mediation counsel if they do not wish to go through the court system.
Addressing the need for community mediation, the Chief Justice called for more participation from civil society organisations, especially religious and faith-based leaders. (KK)