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CJ worried about backlog of cases

The troubling backlog of civil court cases in Barbados is worrying the island’s Chief Justice so much that he has introduced a system to dismiss some of them under certain conditions.

Sir Marston Gibson said this morning during a press briefing at the Supreme Court Complex on White Park Road, St. Michael, that some “live” cases date back as far as 1990. He noted that a lot of them were pending and he wanted to refer them to alternative dispute resolution.

He said he had sent out notices to the parties informing them of the intention of resolution by ADR. The Chief Justice disclosed that the parties have been given 30 days in which to respond, failing which, their matters will be dismissed.

However, the number one judicial administrator told reporters litigants could seek reinstatement, but would have to present a compelling case for this to be successful.

He revealed too, that there was a serious backlog of cases in the Appeal Court. Sir Marston announced that in 2011, there were 2,100 civil cases filed in the High Court and 440 of a family nature. He observed that these had nothing to do with the 23,000 filed in the magistrates’ courts. “The first thing we did, this is by way of a committee chaired by Justice Maureen Crane-Scott — she chaired a Backlog Reduction Committee — and what we are in the process of doing, is finding out just how many cases we have lying there, starting from 1990,” informed the Chief Justice. “Believe it or not, we’ve got cases from 1990 that are still ‘live’ cases… And when we sat in judicial council and said 1990, one of the attorney representatives on that council said, ‘Sir I think you may have to look again, because I am sure that there are some from earlier than that, and, I certainly have a couple from 1988’,” said Sir Marston.

“We have to get rid of the backlog because these are statistics that sit in our files, and we need to get rid of them. And that’s one of the first things that we plan to do…, that we are looking at.”

He added: “A lot of these cases that are still pending, we want to send to ADR (alternative dispute resolution) because they’ve been around for a while. We want to send them to ADR, but it’s not going to be that simple.

“I’ve put out a practice direction on backlog reduction; and the way it works is that we’ve sent out notices in years. So we have sent out notices for 1990, 1991; we are still working on notices for 1992 and ’93.

“Basically what the notices said is, ‘Your case has been pending since 1990; you have 30 days to tell us what you want to do’. If we get no response within 30 days, we dismiss the case.” (EJ)

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