Wassa East District Magistrate, Her Worship Henrietta Charway has noted that Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) provides a healthier method for resolving disputes since parties to conflicts which arise within an ongoing relationship such as families, neighbours, landlords, tenants and business associates appreciate techniques which support the positive maintenance of these relationships.
She said parties often find out that the process itself teaches them new ways to deal with future conflict and new ways to communicate.
She indicated that in family, workplace and business disputes, it was important to preserve future relationships and therefore a procedure which was not disruptive to the normal life of the relationship was preferred to litigation.
Her Worship Charway made the remark in a speech read on behalf of Her Ladyship Justice Irene Charity Larbi, Justice of the Appeals Court and Judge in charge of ADR at a stakeholder meeting marking this year’s ADR Week in the Wassa East District Assembly (WEDA) in the Western Region.
It was to sensitize the general public on some legal issues.
She maintained that ADR helps to decongest the Courts thus, allowing Judges to have more time in handling cases which are not amenable to ADR, a situation she said undeniably makes the Judiciary more efficient and offers financial and emotional relief to the parties.
She divulged that agreements reached at the end of the ADR process are sent to the Court for adoption as a consent judgment, thereby making the terms of settlement enforceable by the Court.
She indicated that disputants enjoy privacy over conventional litigation under the ADR.
“People extremely value the privacy ADR provides because when the matter is heard in the open, the media may pick it up and place it in the public domain. This makes the parties involved susceptible to all types of comments and sometimes public ridicule”, she noted.
She said Order 1, Rule 1(2) of the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2004 provides that, “these rules shall be interpreted and applied so as to achieve speedy and effective justice, avoid delays and unnecessary expenses, and ensure that as far as possible, all matters in dispute between parties may be completely, effectively and finally determined and the multiplicity of proceedings concerning any of such matters avoided.”
She further said Section 72(1) of the Courts Act 1993 (Act 459) provides that, “any Court with Civil Jurisdiction and its officers shall promote reconciliation, encourage and facilitate settlement of disputes in an amicable manner between and among persons over whom the Court has jurisdiction.”
She added that the High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules 2004 and the Courts Act 1993 (Act 459), prescribed amicable resolution of cases before the Courts as the most innovative way by which justice can be done.
She stressed that access to justice can only be achieved when the adjudication process was expeditious and devoid of unnecessary expense and ensured that as far as possible, all matters in dispute between parties were completely, effectively and finally determined and the multiplicity of proceedings concerning such matters was avoided.
She noted that the regular Court system was a right-based process, though has its own strengths, which is characterized by factors that occasion delays and cost, thereby making access to justice most of the time very difficult.
She explained that on the strength of the provisions in the Rules of Courts and the Courts Act, the Judicial Service has adopted ADR to ensure that access to justice was not hindered.
ADR was instituted in the year 2005 as an intervention to ease pressure on the regular Court system and to create a platform that would offer disputants the opportunity to play a key role in resolving their disputes.
It was also instituted to promote and entrench such intervention, where a week in every legal year term is set aside to sensitize the general public.
In attendance were Chiefs and Queen Mothers, personnel from the Ghana Police Service, CHRAJ, Social Welfare, Information Services Department, GPRTU and the general public.
Participants urged the Judicial Service to use the Week and beyond to embark on a sensitisation drive to educate more people about the ADR.