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Family Court nears activation; lawyers told to end “culture of adjournments”

Chancellor of the Judiciary Car Singh delivering remarks at the opening of the training seminar for members of the Guyana Bar on the Family (Proceedings and Procedure) Rules for the Family Court. Seated are several Guyana High Court Judges and the The Family Court could become operational in the coming weeks after additional training of lawyers and the laying of the Court Rules in the National Assembly, according to Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh. “I don’t think we are going to go past a month. It’s been a long wait. The reasons are any and varied why we had this problem but those are behind us,” he told reporters shortly after the opening of a workshop. The Family Court, which will be a division of the High Court, will deal with case of adoption, neglect, child maintenance, custody and domestic violence. Before the Family Court begins functioning, he said there would be a seminar for judges and the Revised Rules of the Court would be laid by Attorney General Basil Williams in the National Assembly. Seated are several Guyana High Court Judges and Resident Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Marianne Flach (third from right).

The Family Court could become operational in another month after additional training of lawyers and the laying of the Court Rules in the National Assembly, according to Chancellor of the Judiciary Carl Singh.

“I don’t think we are going to go past a month. It’s been a long wait. The reasons are any and varied why we had this problem but those are behind us,” he told reporters shortly after the opening of a training seminar for lawyers on the Family (Proceedings and Procedure) Rules held at the Georgetown Club.

The Family Court, which will be a division of the High Court, will deal with case of adoption, neglect, child maintenance, custody and domestic violence.

Before the Family Court begins functioning, he said there would be a seminar for judges and the Revised Rules of the Court would be laid by Attorney General Basil Williams in the National Assembly. After the rules are laid, a Practice Direction would be signed to bring the Court into being.

The Chancellor of the Judiciary said the court is adequately staffed with judges and support staff and would have a dedicated Registry.

Resident Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Marianne Flach welcomed the operationalisation of the court, saying that was a requirement by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child back in 2013.

“Much work has been done to achieve reform in legislation related to children and it is important that these are well-supported by reforms in other areas of Family Law in order to adequately protect children especially those too young to have a voice and ensure that their rights are upheld,” she told the opening session of the training seminar. At the end of the seminar, participants are expected to recognise the key differences between the old and new systems, understand their role in the timely disposition of cases and gain clarity on specific functions in the management of cases.

In an effort to ensure the smooth functioning of the new court, the Chancellor appealed to lawyers to clean up their act by ending the culture of adjournments that has resulted in prolonged delays in the judicial system. “If we are able to achieve that change in culture then I dare say that will be a significant and worthy achievement as well,” he said.

Singh lamented the absence of many lawyers and contended that it would eventually be to their detriment when they appear in the Family Court without any knowledge of the new rules.

“Efficiency and timeliness should become known as the established standards of this soon to be created Family Court and the judges who will preside over those courts will have a key role to play in the achievement of those standards,” he added.

The Guyana Bar Association and Guyana Association of Women Lawyers are among the several stakeholders that have been consulted about the establishment of the Family Court.