WIDER USE OF MEDIATION
Alternative Dispute Resolution among approaches in bid to clear backlog by April
Officers of the courts have been urged to make full use of the recently introduced Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in settling civil cases that allow a win-win situation for both parties. Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak Tan Sri Richard Malanjum, in making the call yesterday, said the ADR by way of mediation is now part and parcel of judicial process. Speaking at the opening of Legal Year 2008, Richard said that for the last few months, there were 26 civil cases disposed of through mediation in the High Courts while 19 in the Subordinate Courts. He said the ADR is one of the approaches taken by the judiciary to dispose of cases speedily in the courts. He hoped that by the end of February this year, the Subordinate Courts (Sessions and Magistrate’s Courts) will dispose of all their outstanding cases while the High Courts will attempt to do so by the end of April this year. “I urge all judges and judicial officers to be familiar with mediation process and technique as this is one way we can clear our backlog expeditiously,” he said. Richard said that for this year, he expects wider use of this process in civil cases, and in order to better equip judges and judicial officers in mediation process, there will be courses organized for them in the next few months. He expressed confidence that by the end of this year, the waiting period for hearings of both criminal and civil cases would be reduced significantly. He said that by September this year, the waiting period for hearings of criminal cases in the Subordinate Courts will be reduced to six months while civil cases will have a waiting period of 12 months. “By year end, the period will be further reduced to three and nine months respectively,” he said. Richard said that for the High Courts, he hopes to see the waiting period for criminal cases to be only six months while civil cases will have 24-month waiting period by September this year. “Thereafter we will reduce them to three months and 12 months respectively come the opening of next legal year,” he said, adding that it is an ambitious target, but with better case management techniques and the wider use of mediation process, it is not impossible to achieve it. On the pending cases, Richard said that in the High Courts of Sabah, there are 1 14 pre-2007 criminal cases and 475 pre-2005 civil cases, while in the Subordinate Courts, there are 7,450 pre-2007 criminal cases including 3,543 illegal immigration cases and 376 pre-2005 civil cases. “As at January 1, 2008, there are still such cases pending. In the High Courts, there are 83 pre-2007 criminal cases and 245 pre-2005 civil cases. It means for the last 12 months, the High Courts in Sabah disposed of 31 pre-2007 criminal cases and 230 pre2005 civil cases,” he said. In the Subordinate Courts, there are 349 pre-2007 criminal cases and 109 pre-2005 civil cases,which means that the courts have disposed of 7,101 pre-2007 criminal cases, including 3,503 illegal immigration cases and 267 pre-2005 civil cases. While clearing the pre-2007 criminal cases and pre-2005 civil cases, Judges and Judicial officers were also hearing current cases, especially the urgent ones and interlocutory applications, said Richard. “That is why overall for the last one year, the total number of cases disposed of by the High Courts in Sabah comprised 1,644 civil cases and 112 criminal cases. In the Subordinate Courts, the overall total clearance of cases included 23,855 criminal cases and 12,227 civil cases,” he added. Richard urged the head of prosecution in Sabah to ensure there are sufficient prosecuting officers appearing in the Subordinate Courts as it is now just a matter of months when the outstanding cases will have to be cleared. Meanwhile, he said the Mobile Court has had successful outings in the rural and remote areas of Sabah. “For the past nine months, 1,152 cases were dealt with. Most of thee cases involved certification of late birth certificates and attestation of documents. Simple legal advices were also given to those in need,” said Richard, who also invited members of the Bar to assist the Mobile Court in the project. “The Night Court, since its inception in May 2007 until the end of December 2007, managed to dispose of 130 cases. More will be heard by the Night Court,” he said. Richard said the Traffic Court in Kota Kinabalu disposed of 10,315 cases in the last 12 months, leaving a balance of 371 as at Jan 1,2008. As at Dec 31, 2007, Kota Kinabalu City Municipal Court, which was established in May last year, managed to dispose of 35 summons cases and 140 civil cases, leaving a balance of 53 and 265 cases respectively. “Although we have not cleared all the pending pre-2007 criminal cases and pre-2005 civil cases, nevertheless I wish to thank all judges, judicial officers and staff of the courts in Sabah for the good work done,” he stressed.