LUCEA, Hanover — The parish of Hanover currently holds the enviable position of having the best-performing parish court on the island for the past two years.
One of the things that makes it outstanding is the speed with which cases are handled.
"For every 100 cases that come to the courts Hanover is resolving 125, so they are at the top. They have had the trophy as a top-performing parish for the last two years," Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck said during a church service at the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lucea last Saturday.
The service was the final in what was supposed to be a five-day stop in the parish as part of the ministry's push to promote its alternative dispute resolution initiative. Another church service scheduled for Sunday was scrapped because of the threat of a tropical storm.
Information obtained from the justice ministry has shown that, for the past fiscal year, the Hanover Parish Court had a criminal case clearance rate of 122.30 per cent, exceeding its target by 21.67 percentage points — the highest of any of the country's courts. In civil matters it recorded a case clearance rate of 136.03 per cent over the same period, exceeding its target by 25.92 percentage points, again the best on the island.
The Hanover Parish Court is among Jamaica's lowest for active cases in backlog, under one per cent.
The minister pointed out that, even though the parish has done well over the past two years, he encouraged court staff, during his meeting with them last Thursday, to do even better.
"They are now averaging six months; so any matter that goes to the court, it can be dealt with in six months. But what I am saying to them, 'Make it even less that when matters come to the court it can be resolved within three months,' " said Chuck.
As a means of achieving this goal, the minister said alternative justice services are being provided as a tool "so when matters come to court they can refer it to the alternate justice services, restorative justice, child diversion, mediation and victim services.
Chuck also spoke of the need for the Government to partner with other sectors of the society to achieve the best results.
"That is why the Ministry of Justice is now in partnership with the churches. Only a couple of weeks ago your leader, Dr Everett Brown, and 12 other leaders of churches signed a memorandum of understanding for us at the Ministry of Justice to be able to sensitise and train at least 25 congregants in all the churches in restorative justice, and to indicate to them the other alternate justice services," stated Chuck.
He said there are too many negatives holding back Jamaica, and that the Church has a role to play in resolving this.
"We have too many problems in this country. Sin, wrongdoing, crime, corruption, indiscipline, and abuses overtaking the country. That is why Jamaica is not making the progress that it should, because people now accept wrongdoing, accept crime and corruption. As a church we must condemn them. We must expose them. We must deter them. Jamaica cannot be a great country unless we deter and reduce sin, wrongdoing, crime, corruption — all of the things that are holding back Jamaica. So church, we want to partner with you. We want all the churches across Jamaica to work with one another, to work with us to make Jamaica what God meant it to be," encouraged Chuck.
According to the minister, restorative justice, in particular, has been effective.
"For every 10 cases that the court referred to restorative justice, more than nine of them are actually resolved. In other words, 100 cases referred by the courts, 93 of them were successfully completed by restorative justice. It is a success story. And that is why we say if you know persons in conflict, refer them to the justice centre so that one of these services can be provided," urged Chuck.
Over the four days of his visit to Hanover, MIninster Chuck and a team from the ministry met with the court, various schools in the parish, and hosted of a justice fair in the town of Lucea.