Seated: Registrar, Mrs. Janine Harris-Lake (right) and Chief Justice Pereira (centre) with newly court-certified mediators. SKNIS Photo.

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s (ECSC) Mediation Public Awareness Campaign launched on Tuesday with a goal of promoting peaceful resolutions between parties in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Supported by the Canadian-funded Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project, the initiative is aimed at communicating the contents of the year-long public awareness campaign with members of the public and the media.

Her Ladyship, the Honourable Dame Janice Pereira, Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), in the Federation to participate in the event, said mediation is an alternative to dispute resolution, and the courts are not the only option.

“It has so many benefits to the justice system. It is an enhancer to the entire justice system because it facilitates a medium that is less time consuming, less costly to everyone and importantly, a mechanism where both sides can walk away feeling a sense of satisfaction, not feeling that families and friendships and associations are destroyed or damaged,” said the chief justice.

The chief justice said that mediation is a tool that will assist in achieving good order, peace and security.

The Honourable Vincent Byron Jr., Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, said the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis fully endorses the mediation programme, and highlighted the construction of the Annex which will be situated where the old electoral office was once housed.

“We [the government] are currently engaged in improving the facilities that would be used by our new court certified mediators when we, early next year, would bring onboard the Annex to the Sir Lee Llewellyn Moore Judicial and Legal Complex, where we would have there a new mediation centre,” he said. “This Mediation Centre would allow for the plans of the court to expand the mediation process. We would have in place some three chambers that would be ready and available for mediation for various matters and we would be enhancing the staff to compliment that.”

“For the mediation process to be fully utilized it was necessary for the public to become more informed of the mediation process and of the many benefits,” Her Ladyship, the Honourable Justice Gertel Thom, Justice of Appeal and Chairman of the Judicial Education Institute, said in her welcome remarks. “Our communities have long been accustomed to disputes being settled in the courts by judicial officers. Change as we all know is not often readily embraced, more so, when it is not clearly understood. It is against this background that the Mediation Public Awareness Campaign is being launched in the Federation of St. Christopher and Nevis.”

The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) was established in 1967 by the West Indies Associated States Supreme Court Order No. 223 of 1967. The ECSC is a superior court of record for the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), including six Independent States: Antigua and Barbuda, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and three British Overseas Territories: Anguilla, The British Virgin Islands, and Montserrat. The Court has unlimited jurisdiction in each Member State and Territory.

Bar Association Enthusiastic About Promotion of Mediation Techniques in the Federation

The St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association is enthusiastic about the promotion of mediation techniques in the Federation.

“I am very excited with the court’s initiative as it relates to mediation and my hope is that the wider use of mediation will result in a culture of conflict resolution in St. Kitts and Nevis, a preferable solution to settling disputes as they arise,” said Dahlia Joseph Rowe, President of the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association, during the launch. “…mediation increases the public’s confidence in the justice system by disposing of matters that ought not to go to trial and allowing the courts to deal with disputes that cannot be settled otherwise.

“This lessens the burden on our court system so that litigants can get to trial more quickly. Having matters settled in mediation allows us [attorneys-at-law] to devote more time to other cases and use our legal expertise in other areas of the law which I dare say may be even more lucrative,” she added.

Mrs. Joseph Rowe encouraged the public to take advantage of the public education.

“Attend the events, discuss the issues raised on the radio talk shows, on social media, with your friends and family members. “Let us get the conversation going and the message out that mediation is an invaluable dispute resolution mechanism, and that we in St. Kitts and Nevis should take full advantage of the trained and highly-skilled mediators at our disposal to settle disputes,” she said.

She wished the court every success in the public awareness campaign and said that the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association stood ready to assist in any way possible.