Basseterre, St. Kitts, May 18, 2023 (SKNIS): The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is one step closer to establishing an Access to Justice Bureau aimed at strengthening the Rule of Law in the country and positively impacting people’s quality of life.
Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Senator Honourable Garth Wilkin, said that the Bureau will consist of three arms.
“The first arm will be the Legal Aid Clinic where persons who cannot afford commercial lawyer rates can attend and receive top class service for civil matters, including family court,” said Attorney-General Wilkin during the Prime Minister’s Press Conference with Cabinet Ministers on May 18. “The lawyers in the Clinic will then be going to the various community centers to provide free legal advice to persons in the communities when they have disputes.”
The other arm of the Access to Justice Bureau will be the Public Defender’s Office.
“This is the office where the government is going to pay for lawyers to be able to defend persons charged with criminal offenses, at very low fees … there will be lawyers that are actually engaged by the government … [to represent] persons who cannot afford to pay for senior lawyers to defend them,” said the Attorney-General.
He noted that this initiative has worked throughout the Commonwealth, and it is being implemented in St. Kitts and Nevis “so that everybody, no matter their income level, can feel that they got justice and proper representation.”
According to Minister Wilkin, the Alternative Dispute Resolution and Restorative Justice Arm will serve as the third pillar of the Bureau.
“If anybody has any dispute in our society, whether it be domestic with your neighbour or someone you gave a loan to, instead of going to court, you would be able to go to a trained mediator, sit down and try to resolve your dispute amicably,” he said. “The mediator will also be going to the community centers to introduce that mediation process into the community.”
Restorative Justice is a mediation process to repair harm by providing an opportunity for those harmed and those who take responsibility for the harm to communicate about and address their needs in the aftermath of a crime. The concept of an Access to Justice Bureau was first introduced by the Attorney-General during the 2023 Budget Address.
The Attorney-General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs were granted a budgetary increase totaling $2.5 million for the year 2023 to implement several initiatives that will modernize access to justice and speed up legal processes.
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