The Lay Magistrates Association of Jamaica (LMAJ) says significant strides have been made to help reduce the backlog of cases in courts at the parish level.
Claudette Bryan, former LMAJ president, said since the association was charged with the responsibility of
assisting to ease the heavy caseload and backlog clogging courtrooms across the island, there is now clear evidence that the move has started to pay off.
“While there is still work to do, we have been making strides in getting things done… in reducing the backlog,” she said.
“Some of the areas that we are dealing with include drug and children courts, in addition to civil matters,” she added.
Bryan, speaking at a recent JIS ‘Think Tank’ at the agency’s regional office in Montego Bay, St James, further explained that settling cases amicably, notably civil matters, has been something the LMAJ has been pushing for in communities across the island, noting that it goes a long way to sparing the courts from further backlogs.
She pointed to restorative justice as a well-tested and received concept, which has been working well as it relates to settling disputes at the community level.
“Restorative justice has been a great initiative, which has led to cases which would still be on the books… being resolved. We have to utilise it more, as it is a way where disputes are settled without having to burden the court system,” she said.
“What we want to do as lay magistrates is to encourage individuals who are faced with these problems to seek answers and resolutions to those problems through restorative justice,” Bryan added.
In the meantime, she said that members of the LMAJ, as well as Justices of the Peace (JPs), must be commended for the work they have been doing overall, even during the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reminded of their motto, ‘Service over self’.
“There is not a better feeling than knowing you are and have been making a difference,” she said.
“As the Justice Minister [Delroy Chuck] keeps reminding, most JPs are not only acting uprightly but are beacons in their communities, standing up for the voiceless,” she added.
The ‘Think Tank’ was held to promote the upcoming Marching Band Festival (Labour Day, May 23) in Montego Bay, St James.