Dispute resolution proposed to reduce court backlogs
Stabroek News
March 13, 2003

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A planning committee comprising representatives of various arms within the local judicial system has been set up to explore the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) concept with a view to reducing the current backlog of cases in the courts.

The formation of the committee resulted from a meeting of 28 persons occupying key positions in the legal profession and judicial system, chaired by Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Desiree Bernard. A Government Information Agency (GINA) press release said on Tuesday that included in the committee were designates from the judiciary, magistracy, legal profession, the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Attorney General (AG).

The release explained that the "ADR" was the term used generally to refer to methods of resolving disputes without the need for a full court trial. It noted that "ADR has been successfully adopted in many countries where up to 90 per cent of civil cases are settled out of court before trial. This not only saves a great deal of expense for the parties, but also saves the parties potentially [from] years of waiting before a case can be heard by a judge in a busy court."

ADR allowed for a more efficient court system with shorter waiting periods for cases to come to trial if they could not be settled, the release stated, explaining that this method when used for civil cases might involve arbitration, mediation, negotiation, judicial settlement, case conferences, and so on. "On the criminal side, ADR can include methods for police to address minor offences without the need for arrest and criminal charges (such as victim-offender mediation), alternative sentences such as community service, plea bargaining and other methods to avoid bringing matters to trial when appropriate."

According to the release, research will be conducted into the various options by the planning committee and that body would submit a report at the end of May.

The release disclosed that the meeting was held in collaboration with the Carter Center, Guyana, which has conducted a feasibility study to determine the potential for ADR to be introduced locally. The work of the Carter Center came under the auspices of the USAID Democracy and Governance Programme - Justice/Rule of Law and Strengthening of Civil Society, and the statement indicated that the organisation would continue to work with the newly-formed committee, the Chancellor, the Chief Justice and the wider judicial and legal communities to select and support appropriate activities to promote the use of ADR methods in Guyana.

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