by Carmel Haynes

The legal fraternity in Barbados is being encouraged to look for a less litigious way of settling legal disputes.

Through a four-day workshop on alternative dispute resolution, members of the judiciary and local Bar Association are being sensitised to the integration of mediation into the civil justice system.

Natalie Johnson, acting programme director in the Justice Improvement Programme secretariat, which is sponsoring the course, said the sessions were a culmination of three years of planning. She added that the project, which started last year, would extend over the next three years and was aimed at introducing alternative dispute resolution into the judicial sector.

Workshop leader Allan Stitt, president of Canadian mediation consultants Stitt Feld Handy Group, advocated the alternative dispute resolution process as a way of avoiding the court process, which can be expensive, time-consuming and public.

He offered mediation as way to work out disputes creatively, providing for more of a “win-win situation” as opposed to a “win-lose or lose-lose, which litigation can be”.

Yesterday and Friday, judges and magistrates were provided with a better understanding of the mediation process through a short advanced course on assisting in negotiation more effectively.

Tomorrow and Tuesday, the workshop will include discussion on the issues surrounding mediation, and interactive mediation demonstrations.

Stitt said some lawyers had reservations about mediation because early settlements reduced their fees, but he added that others appreciated the benefits it provided for their clients.

The Toronto-based mediator added that the public would be introduced to negotiation and mediation practices for resolving conflicts in the home, or workplace through a workshop being organized for January.