The Justice and Peace Commission conducted a survey on the access of people to the justice system in 2008. Analysis of this survey proved that, despite government reforms geared at promoting the use of Conventional Justice System (composing of the courts, police/gendarmes and lawyers), the potential users of the Conventional Justice System are ignorant about their exercises. Even those who are aware could not easily access and afford for them because of the administrative bottlenecks, cumbersome procedures and the corrupt nature of the officials. Those who can even afford to overcome these hindrances are still not satisfied with the assistance received. To further substantiate this, the Justice and Peace Commission is continuously receiving complaints from the public.
Alternative Dispute Resolution unit
The JPC formed an Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit (ADR) to make Justice accessible to the public. ADR refers to those processes other than a court hearing, where an impartial person helps the parties to resolve the dispute issues between them. ADR options include neutral evaluation, conferencing, negotiation, mediation, conciliation and arbitration. The process also assists with the early resolution of disputes and identification of the real issues in disputes.
It may also be that parties will have an ongoing relationship after the dispute is resolved, such as a family matter or employment issue, so using a method of alternative dispute resolution that promotes agreement between the parties may be a better option.
This Unit is geared at providing Legal Aid and advice to the general public, be it destitute cases or well to do persons who are just ignorant about the law. The level of assistance issued will depend on the individuals profile questionnaire form which is filed alongside his/her complaint. The Unit consists of a Judicial Assistant, Legal adviser, two volunteers and the Coordinator of the Commission.
Access to justice is not just about courts and lawyers, but is also about better and early access to information and services to help people prevent and resolve disputes. While courts are an important part of the justice system, there are many situations where other options for resolving a dispute will be faster, cheaper and more suitable in the circumstances. Sometimes, simply having access to good information can help people to resolve their own disputes quickly and effectively.
In complex and entrenched disputes, a court determination may be the most appropriate outcome.