| Fadley Faisal |
THE judiciary will undertake reforms to enhance the quality of the justice delivery system, with timeliness in the delivery of judgments to be prioritised and efficiency in the administration of the courts to become the norm.
This was assured by Chief Justice Dato Paduka Steven Chong during the inauguration of the Legal Year 2019 at the Supreme Court Building yesterday.
“Timeliness will be our top priority and efficiency must become the norm in the administration of the courts. There must be a change in the work culture and a new mindset,” the Chief Justice said.
He explained that a general target of one month has been set for delivery of judgments by judges, magistrates and registrars, with delivery of decisions in complex cases to not take more than three months after the close of submissions.
The Chief Justice said that in pursuit of efficiency, the judiciary must find the right balance to maintain public trust and confidence in the administration of justice and reminded that judges should not delay justice, as the cost to the defendants or litigants may result in the loss of their liberty or property.
Conversely, he stressed that no one should leave the court with the grievance of having been deprived of a full and fair hearing because the judge was impatient.
The Chief Justice also touched on various initiatives implemented by the judiciary.
Firstly, mediation as a non-confrontational and more harmonious way of resolving disputes continues to be offered as an alternative dispute mechanism by the courts.
As of August 2018, all litigants have been offered the opportunity of mediation before court-accredited mediators. The Chief Justice went on to explain that mediation is more cost-effective than most other modes of dispute resolution, as it allows parties themselves to directly participate in the resolution of their disputes and determine its outcome.
It also achieves quicker closure with reduced professional charges and costs.
To date in the High Court, 11 cases have been identified for mediation and two out of four cases have been successfully mediated.
Secondly, the Chief Justice announced that the judiciary has embarked on a project to produce a Bench Book containing guideline cases on a range of offences to provide assistance to judges and magistrates when they discharge their sentencing duties.
The Chief Justice stated that the Bench Book would cover offences under the Penal Code, Misuse of Drugs Act, Road Traffic Act, Immigration Act, Income Tax Act, and Customs and Excise Orders.
He expressed his confidence that there will be a greater level of consistency and predictability in sentences that will be of benefit to judges, magistrates, prosecutors and defence counsels.
Thirdly, the Chief Justice noted that the judiciary website will be reviewed regularly, with the goal of turning it into a useful platform where the public can access useful information on court matters and for research purposes. He added that the website has recently been enhanced, with links to resources such as e-Practice Directions, and judgments from 1987 to 2018 in the form of ‘e-Publications’.
Wrapping up his address, Dato Paduka Steven Chong commended the Law Society for its efforts in expanding pro bono services to enhance access to justice, and encouraged all members of the Bar to volunteer their services and use their training to serve the disadvantaged and vulnerable of society.