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Feb 28, 2005

Family court seeks alternatives to trials

Story PictureIt carries an extensive and diverse jurisdiction; and now the Belize Family Court is taking a proactive approach to settling family disputes. It’s called mediation and according to head of the Family Court, Margaret Nicholas, the idea is to prevent disputes from having to reach the formal court setting. A group of mediators along with representatives of different agencies, including the police department, are this week taking part in a session to introduce the new training manual for the development of mediation techniques and skills. Nicholas says, everyone stands to benefit from this new initiative.

Margaret Nicholas, Head of Family Court
?Primary Disputes Resolution is a programme that will assist the intake officers particularly and the general public as it will deal with matters and cases outside of the actual court process; the actual litigation. It is going to look more at mediation and more at interventions for settling disputes between families. We?re also going to use it for the juvenile offenders. We prefer it as a means because it is a more self determined kind of thing. It is not sentence being imposed upon persons. Because we find that when it comes to family matters and the whole litigation process, it is not really and truly working in the way that we would want it to. And we believe that if we use the primary dispute resolution programme, that it is giving the parties an opportunity to actually discuss, to come up with their own kind of settlement.?

Patrick Jones
?So basically you are trying to prevent cases from coming before your court??

Margaret Nicholas
?Yes, we are trying to prevent the huge numbers of family matters that are coming before the court. Last year we dealt with two thousand, two hundred and seventy-four cases. And we believe that that is just too much, and especially since some of them are repeat cases. We feel that mediation, conflict resolution and that is the way to go. And we believe firmly that that is going to address family issues in a more meaningful way other than litigations.?

The workshop, which ends on Wednesday, is being attended by staff of the Family Court, the police, Women’s and Human Development Departments. The training guide for developing mediation techniques and skills was written by Albert Fiadjoe and Sharon Almerigi on behalf of UNICEF Belize and the Family Court.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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