Maynard-Gibson: People-centered reforms needed for justice system
Further reform of and investment in the judicial system is paramount in closing the justice gap in The Bahamas, according to a former lawmaker who said the judicial system should be more people-centered.
Former Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, who was a member of the Task Force on Justice – an initiative of the Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies – said The Bahamas could make a meaningful impact on the global justice gap by providing more access to legal clinics and “community courts”.
“Sort of like a people’s court of respected elders. There are certain matters that can be dealt with in that way, so that everything doesn’t have to end up in a court as we know it, because that is very costly,” she said in an interview with Guardian Business.
“In 2017 we made an amendment to the Industrial Relations Act so that persons appearing before the Industrial Tribunal could appear by themselves, they no longer have to have a lawyer appear for them and rules of evidence are not applicable. So you can actually come and tell your own story and also there’s a mandate that the judges of the tribunal give their rulings in a specific period of time… it could be expedited.
“Creative thinking and the whole system being people-centered is what’s being advocated.”
The Task Force on Justice is working to accelerate the implementation of the commitment made in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to provide equal access to justice for all. It is advocating for governments around the world to implement universal justice systems and to provide cost-effective alternatives that help people resolve disputes.
Globally, an estimated 4.5 billion people are excluded from opportunities the law provides, with 2.3 billion lacking proof of housing or land tenure. There is also a pronounced justice gap in the workplace, with 2.1 billion people employed in the informal economy and another 1.1 billion lacking legal identity.
“At the moment we need to look at ways to make it easier for people have their disputes resolved themselves,” Maynard-Gibson said.