In BU’s previous blog about Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) most if not all of the comments shared were favourable to its quick implementation. We cannot repeat enough times how lamentable it is that - to quote CJ Gibson – ‘our Courts are in crisis’ and ADR was not introduced under the former CJ as one tactic to assist with the efficient handling of the case backlog in our Courts. Nevertheless for his effort Sir David Simmons was rewarded the obligatory Knighthood.
Whilst the OECS Practice Directions exist for Barbados to follow – and it seems ‘strange’ that we should be following the OECS on this matter in much the same way that as a jurisdiction it has already achieved CAT 1 status contrasted with Barbados’ Cat II – there is merit to the CJ advocating for expanding ADR to include family law matters. Anyone who has observed how family matters are dealt with by the Barbados Courts is driven to be very sympathetic to the parties on both sides of the matter. Most oft than not the principals are from the lower rung of society with few options available to them except to wait on our Courts to give currency to the view that justice delayed is justice denied.
A characteristic of family law matters is the considerable court time which is absorbed. Often times the Judge has to spend precious time placating the parties rather than applying the law. In many instances the sterile processes of the court room only serve to harden positions. There are currently family law cases before the courts we know to have clocked in excess of 1,000 hours of court time. Surely ADR which uses conflict resolution as a core strategy would serve better in such cases? Such an approach makes even more sense when children are involved.
The ADR mediator’s brief and often times training will allow people to vent while probing at a settlement satisfactory to all parties. Would it not, therefore, make sense for the CJ to include family law matters as suitable matters to refer to arbitration?