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New Digital Family Module Included in ECSC eLitigation Portal for Magistrate Court

By Reginald Andrew
Hon. Dame Janice M. Pereira
Hon. Dame Janice M. Pereira

Law officials from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) have implemented a new digital family module to its Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) eLitigation Portal for Saint Lucia Magistrate’s Court.

Her Ladyship, the Hon. Dame Janice M. Pereira has been credited for being very influential in pushing for modernized technological apparatus to be fully integrated into the court operations.

While commending court staffers for their contribution to the fulfillment of this latest project, Dame Pereira said, she was pleased to see the venture come to fruition especially in these times as the court looks to upgrade its digital operations.

“The whole idea of this …is to really mark a milestone in the implementation of a portal,” said Dame Pereira, at the media briefing, Wednesday.

The Madame Justice explained that over the past five years, court staffers have worked relentlessly for the implementation of this process at the magistracy.

Dame Pereira noted that the magistracy forms an integral part of the justice system as it entails dealing with persons with legal issues across the communities.

“We have been on mission to seek as far as possible to take measures to integrate the magistracy into the wider judiciary,” she added. “And so, this is but just one step in that direction.”

Dame Pereira said, with filings at the district court currently being done manually, the updated procedure will avoid litigants having to travel “many miles” to access the courts.

“We have seen …the sort of transformational changes that has been made in the courts in accessing the electronic system. And so, this will bring a transformation in the legal processing to the persons who rely on the magistracy for the conduct of their judicial affairs,” Dame Pereira explained.

She said the portal will bring about an ease in procedures, such as filing, payments, scheduling and other services. In addition, payments will be done electronically for family matters, such as child maintenance and other issues.

Added Dame Pereira: “It is a system that you can access 24/7 … and our tagline is – Anytime from anywhere.”

Recalling the trauma and hardships that citizens and commercial enterprises endured during the pandemic and with other natural disasters, she declared, “It is important for the court to move in a direction, which leverages inter-communication and all those inter-technologies that goes along with it.”

Notwithstanding the occurrence of disasters, Dame Pereira said, “Courts cannot remain still …and even when we have pandemics, people are entitled to justice in the justice system. So it must work, it must be able to provide access in order to achieve justice. And so, we must move with the times, recognizing those challenges and move along with it.”

The Madame Justice stressed that it is important to put adequate measures and resources in place to deal with legal issues at all levels of the judiciary. “It is a fundamental branch of the government, it is an entity as it relates to the promotion, protection, and observance of the rule of law.”

Dame Pereira asserted: “No democracy can really function the way it should, unless you are able to ensure that persons, whether in public or private can access the court and can achieve justice in a timely and efficient manner.”

She explained that the judiciary has created rules for the district court, “which will enable the elitigation portal to work with the magistracy and for persons to access the portal, not only online, but by being able to have their documents available at the magistrate’s office.”

The court official said it is critical that the magistracy be equipped with “a strong and robust service bureau” incorporated amongst staffers in the low court, high court, and the magistracy. She also spoke of the need to provide adequate training for staffers within the magistracy operations.

Commenting on a wider service delivery system for the sub-regional states, Dame Pereira declared: “We are committed to getting to the end, where we meet every single court at every level of the magistracy within the Eastern Caribbean states …and we will continue to move this process stage by stage until we achieve that goal. So, we will not rest, we will stop for a while to improve it but we will have to find a way of actually rising above that and doing remote training.”

She noted: “We want to ensure that the courts in the Eastern Caribbean are as modern and effective, as any court in any other part of the world.”

In addressing the gathering, Attorney General Leslie Mondesir stated that, Saint Lucia is the third OECS state alongside Antigua and Barbuda and the British Virgin Islands (BVI) to implement the elitigation portal in the magistrate’s court.

He added: “This move towards the increased digitization of our court processes, presents opportunities for enhancing the administrative systems of our courts, and overall improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the justice system.”

The AG said the launch of the elitigation portal process goes hand-in –hand with the government’s mandate for ‘putting people first’ through the continued provision of the integrated service called DigiGov “and its commitment to improving the justice system as a whole and reducing the backlog of cases experienced in the justice system.”

Mondesir went on to say that government has indicated its intention to implement the Swift Justice Project, to “provide technical and administrative support to the High Court …with an allocation of about EC$2 million provided for the project, which is aimed at reducing the processing of cases for about two years.”

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