ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Decreased contributions and shrinking budgets in the face of increased administrative costs have been cited as main challenges facing the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) judiciary – resulting in proposals for an increase in fees for some of the judicial services provided.
In her historic address as the first female Chief Justice (ag), Janice George Perreira told members of the region’s judiciary, “Courts both regionally and internationally are reviewing the menu of services provided and are proposing fees and structures that bear some level of relationship to the cost of the services provided.”
She said that’s also because recent developments in the area of law reform have called for a shift towards seeing the court as a service provider in the dispensation of justice.
In recent times, even the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) in a most recent communiqué to members, proposed increases to filing fees and other applications to the JCPC.
Justice Perreira said while one might be inclined to think that this concept is revolutionary, in the sense that user fees within the context of the administration of justice could, in some circles, be seen as restricting access to justice, this approach is consistent with modern methodology in the administration of justice.
She further said it bears a direct relationship with cost recovery in an ever-increasing litigious society, in a financially challenged economic environment.
The adjudicator’s remarks were made yesterday at a live simulcast during the opening of the 2012/2013 Law Year throughout the nine OECS member states and territories.
Justice Perriera noted all services which were traditionally provided free of charge by governments regionally and internationally are now attracting small user fees for varying purposes, chief among which is to sensitise the users to the issue of appreciating such services, if a fee, however nominal, is paid.
“I assure you that in approaching this review, regard for maintaining and enhancing access to justice will remain at the forefront,” the new acting chief justice noted.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)