CHIEF Justice Ivor Archie says despite complaints and feedback about its lack of effectiveness and efficiency, the judiciary is making progress.
He was speaking on Friday at the opening of the Family Court at Calder Hall Main Road in Scarborough, Tobago.
“As captain of this ever-expanding vessel, I can state without fear of contradiction that our judiciary is working. We are not standing idly by while our courts struggle with overwhelming cases, and we are certainly not distracted by attempts –political or otherwise– to smother our progress.”
Archie said the judiciary was fulfilling its promise of access to justice for all the people of TT by bringing the services of the Family Court to the people of Tobago.
“This launch does not simply mark the opening of a court building. Rather, it is part of the overall vision of the judiciary to transform delivery of its services to the nation. It is but another phase in the expansion of the network of services provided by the judiciary, in innovative and non-traditional ways, aimed at making them more accessible, customer focused, efficient and effective.”
He said even with the opening of the court, where Justice Carol Gobin will sit, the judiciary is doing so with a “borrowed” skeleton staff, which does not augur well for sustainability, even in the short to medium term.
“We are, and we continue to be, dependent on the executive for staffing approvals, but our staff proposals for the court are still with PMCD (Public Management Consulting Division). We understand that they have a lot of work, but the matter has been there for quite some time. And so, we look forward to it being addressed with dispatch.”
Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said it gave him great pleasure to witness the opening.
“Tobago has received its fair share of the national pie, a little bit ahead of San Fernando,” which he said is coming soon.
“The opening of this court today has been an exercise of joy for the government of the republic of TT.
“The birth of this court has happened through the facilitation of desire. The Chief Justice’s passion for driving the reform in the judiciary, which has been co-ordinated through plant and machinery, people, processes and law. Effectively, we have been building the plane while we’ve been flying it, and we’ve been doing that whilst we’ve had an economic situation resulting in approximately 96 per cent shortfall in our oil and gas revenues,” the AG said, adding that this had effectively meant the judiciary and the government had been working on about 40 per cent of what they normally work with.
THA Chief Secretary Kelvin Charles said everyone has a role to play in the building of stronger and more stable families in this country. The THA. he said, was doing its part to improve family life across the island, and the "volume is being turned up" where families are concerned.
“The launch of the Family Court in Tobago offers tremendous possibilities and opportunities for all involved. Whilst I am extremely delighted that the Family Court is being launched or rolled out in Tobago, I dream of the day when we can reach a point as a society where it would be used as little as possible: a point where our families will be more resilient and healthy and their members are empowered to be forces of change on the familial level as well as the societal one.
"It is my greatest hope that the matters before this court will be processed justly and expeditiously and I know by being a separate division of the high court, this would allow for faster case progression,” he said.
The Family Court will have jurisdiction in all family matters for Tobago. The matters it will hear include divorce, protection orders connected to a family matter, legal custody, maintenance, property issues, adoption and access. It was described as "a problem-solving court with customised facilities to provide a range of wrap-around services including mediation, social services and counselling." CourtPay will be introduced to facilitate easy payments into and out of court.