Chief Justice of Barbados, Sir Patterson Cheltenham. (GP)

The days of mothers lining up outside of a court for “an elusive maintenance payment” are coming to an end.

Chief Justice of Barbados, Sir Patterson Cheltenham, made this disclosure at the virtual opening of the 2021-22 Legal Year on Monday, which was attended by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, Attorney General Dale Marshall, judges, lawyers and other officials.

Sir Patterson said: “Court pay will allow them to go to their ATM after receiving a text message or to use a pre- paid card to collect their payments. It will also be a direct benefit to court officers in monitoring and enforcing the payment of fines.”

During his wide-ranging address, the Chief Justice spoke about the initiative to create a family court, saying such a court would have a magisterial and high court jurisdiction and would also hear domestic violence and juvenile justice matters.

He continued: “It will be a sea of change in our adjudication of family law matters. The underlying philosophy departs radically from what practitioners, litigants and judges were previously familiar. The programme for specialised training of the judges in the Family Division is next on the agenda.”

Thus far, he stated, a location within the Supreme Court complex had been earmarked for the court. “The draft legislation has been delivered to the Family Law Council and discussions with the Office of the Attorney-General have begun. It is expected that there will be new support personnel, including masters. There will also be a new statutory regime. There will be extensive training and retraining for all participants. We will usher in  a more modern and enlightened approach to the resolution of family disputes,” he pointed out.

Sir Patterson said the delay on the criminal side touched the very essence of what constituted a fair trial. He said with immediate effect, and utilising the powers vested in him under the warrant of General Gaol Delivery, the Superintendent of Prisons would be required to provide to the Head of the Criminal Division or any judge designated by him, a full report on the status of remand prisoners every three months.

“This process will be done electronically and is designed to address  the troubling and unsettling concerns that result in persons being incarcerated for prolonged periods with no known likelihood of a trial date within a reasonable time, as mandated by our Constitution.

“On resumption of criminal trials, there will have to be priority given to the several persons on remand for murder, firearm offences and sexual offences. This delay has spurred a new genre of rights litigation which is burdensome to the system. However, with necessary administrative adjustments these deficiencies can and must be addressed,” he stressed.

The Chief Justice noted that there would be another opportunity for the public to comment soon on draft guidelines in the areas of sentencing on theft, robbery and sexual offences.

In outlining the way forward, he said he had instructed his technical team to explore e-litigation as the next direction where they would focus, and there would be implementation of a sustained programme of training for all staff of the Judiciary, in order to ensure the public was offered a consistent and quality service.

“We have solicited and obtained the concurrence of a very senior member of the bar who will very shortly be coming to assist us in the estates department….

“Keeping the backlog constantly in focus and moving to have it significantly reduced, for example applications for Writs of Possession are now being processed in a business-like manner by the Registration Department. The delay in processing is an affront to justice and must be aggressively managed,” he said.

Sir Patterson added that the reform programme at the magisterial level would be continued.

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