The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Toni Ni­cholas

There has been much talk, dis­cus­sion and de­bate about the state of the jus­tice sys­tem in Saint Lucia (and in­deed the wider Caribbean). The sit­u­a­tion be­comes most glar­ing when the num­ber of pris­on­ers on re­mand is ex­posed.

Presently there are more than 350 in­mates on re­mand at the Borde­lais Correctional Fa­cil­ity. This fig­ure rep­re­sents just over fifty per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion at BCF, a fa­cil­ity orig­i­nally built to ac­com­mo­date 450 in­mates.

At the other end of the spec­trum is the length of time it takes to bring ‘petty’ crimes be­fore the courts, in ad­di­tion to the back­log al­ready be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced in ma­jor cases. A num­ber of so­lu­tions have been pro­posed in the past, in­clud­ing the es­tab­lish­ment of a night court for ‘small cases’ but all to no avail.

But now a new pro­posal is be­ing brought to gov­ern­ments in the re­gion, in­clud­ing Saint Lucia, which if ac­cepted can see the speed­ing up of some cases, through a me­di­a­tion process.

The Me­di­a­tion Leg­is­la­tion Com­mit­tee of the Cana­dian Gov­ern­ment-funded project Im­proved Ac­cess to Jus­tice in the Caribbean (IM­PACT Jus­tice) met in Saint Lucia on Thurs­day De­cem­ber 17th to dis­cuss a ‘Model Me­di­a­tion Bill’ drafted by IM­PACT Jus­tice in re­sponse to re­quests by sev­eral CARICOM gov­ern­ments for me­di­a­tion leg­is­la­tion. IM­PACT Jus­tice, which is a re­gional jus­tice sec­tor re­form project, is be­ing im­ple­mented from within the Caribbean Law In­sti­tute Cen­tre, UWI, Cave Hill Cam­pus.

IM­PACT Jus­tice wants to al­le­vi­ate the back­log in Saint Lucia’s courts. Com­mit­tee meet­ing were to so­licit feed­back from Gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives and other stake­hold­ers on the Draft Model Me­di­a­tion Bill to in­form amend­ments, and to agree on a way for­ward for fi­nal­i­sa­tion of the draft Model Me­di­a­tion Bill, with a view of its adop­tion by CARICOM Mem­ber States.

On Thurs­day the leg­isla­tive drafter pre­sented the Model Me­di­a­tion Bill to Com­mit­tee Mem­bers. The Com­mit­tee com­prises rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the At­tor­neys Gen­eral, the CARICOM Sec­re­tariat, the OECS As­sem­bly, the OECS Com­mis­sion and the East­ern Caribbean Supreme Court. A Supreme Court Regis­trar and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of an Al­ter­na­tive Dis­pute Res­o­lu­tion (ADR) as­so­ci­a­tion in the re­gion are also on the Com­mit­tee.

Speak­ing to the STAR fol­low­ing the meet­ing, Velma New­ton, who is the Re­gional Project Di­rec­tor, said that she felt the meet­ing went well. “How­ever, we were hop­ing that we would have got­ten much fur­ther in the dis­cus­sions than we did, ahead of an­other meet­ing planned for Jan­uary,” New­ton said. She ex­plained that the Bill, as dis­cussed, seeks to in­tro­duce the stan­dard­iza­tion of me­di­a­tion in the re­gion at the com­mu­nity level. “The whole idea is to have cer­tain mat­ters set­tled out­side of court us­ing well re­spected per­sons from within the com­mu­nity to pre­side over th­ese mat­ters,” New­ton added.

Th­ese me­di­a­tors will be trained and ac­cred­ited but will be sep­a­rate from what cur­rently ex­ists as a me­di­a­tion sys­tem within the reg­u­lar court sys­tem.

If all goes well at the next meet­ing in Jan­uary, the draft Me­di­a­tion Bill will then be sub­mit­ted to At­tor­neys Gen­eral in the re­gion for fi­nal pe­rusal and con­sent.

Much is be­ing placed on this new ini­tia­tive and much will be re­quired by the po­lit­i­cal direc­torate to lend its sup­port if there is to be any re­prieve in our jus­tice sys­tem any­time soon.

Velma New­ton Re­gional Project Di­rec­tor

IM­PACT Jus­tice.

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