Dec 28, 2016 News
Over the past decade there has been a significant reduction in the number of court cases which have been referred to the Mediation Centre, located in the compound of the Supreme Court of Judicature.
Based on statistics provided by the Mediation Centre, from the period October 2013 to December 2015, 721 court cases were referred to the Centre and 188 of those were successful.
In 2004, a total of 175 cases were referred to the centre. The numbers began dwindling the following year, whereby 120 cases were referred; in 2006, 65 cases; in 2007, 72 cases; in 2008, 46 cases; in 2009, 31 cases; in 2010, 37 cases; in 2011, 42 cases; in 2012, 37 cases; in 2013, 28 cases; in 2014, 35 cases and in 2015, 31 cases.
These statistics are specific to the Georgetown centre. There are established mediation centres in New Amsterdam, Berbice, commissioned in 2014.
One can deduce from the reduction in referred cases that Guyana is still a highly litigious country, preferring to go before the courts, or not enough is being done by members of the judiciary to encourage persons to utilise the services of the centre.
In May of this year, this newspaper reported that there were an alarming number of civil and criminal cases which have rolled over to 2016. In 2015, there were 7,998 civil matters filed in the Supreme Court Registry, Georgetown and the sub-registries of New Amsterdam and Essequibo.
The total number of backlogged cases was 7,686 which took the total of cases to be heard to 15,684. At the end of 2015 only 5,629 cases were heard which left 10,055 civil matters still pending.
At that time mediation was used by the Supreme Court as an option for civil matters and there were plans to make Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) compulsory for civil matters and to train mediators to facilitate this procedure.
In November, the new Supreme Court rules were tabled in the National Assembly by Attorney-General Basil Williams. The rules contain procedures for settling civil matters and making payments both in and out of court to help ease the clogging of court matters.
Mediation has been identified as one of the ways to deal with the high amount of backlogged cases before the court system by giving disputants another alternative to settling their disputes.
The process was aimed at giving persons a more flexible avenue to deal with their problems since mediation allows for agreements to be made which are not possible through the court system.
The mediation process was further bolstered in 2010 when the Alternative Dispute Resolution Bill was assented to by then President Bharrat Jagdeo. The ADR process includes Arbitration, Negotiation, Mediation, Adjudication, Settlement Conference, Facilitation and conflict resolution.
For mediation to begin, both parties select a neutral third party who mediates the proceedings to allow the disputants to agree on a solution. One benefit of this process is that it encourages the preservation of relationships instead of destroying them as is common when cases are tried in the courts. (Murtland Haley)
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