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Ground broken for new Hanover court

Published:Friday | February 19, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

An ambitious plan to provide troubled family members and embattled children the opportunity to give court testimony by video and audio recording was unveiled yesterday with the groundbreaking of a family court in Hanover.

For the first time, Jamaica will have a family court which will accommodate a counselling room, infant play area, nursery, waiting area for children, separate holding areas for male and female young offenders. The court is already being described as the envy of others.

Some of the people likely to benefit from the initiative turned out in Lucea to witness the groundbreaking in the parish.

But it was not the political and diplomatic delegations or senior members of the judiciary who had descended on Lucea, whom the people came out to see. Instead, it was the start to the much-anticipated construction of a state-of-the-art family court.

Notwithstanding, the people of Hanover were challenged repeatedly by community and political leaders to play their part to nurture and secure their children.

For over a decade, the parish of Hanover has been denied much-needed legal support as it has been without the all-important facility to administer justice on family and domestic issues.

Encroached on other court

Without a courthouse, family members seeking assistance from the court had to encroach on the Resident Magistrate's Court in the parish capital.

All this promised to change yesterday when Justice Minister Dorothy Lightbourne, European Union Ambassador Marco Mazzocchi Alemanni and other officials travelled to the western end of the island to break ground for the family court.

Lightbourne acknowledged that the occasion was special for the people of Hanover as well as the justice ministry.

"This new facility will allow issues to be dealt with in a professional yet caring atmosphere," she declared.

The history of this new family court dates back to 2005 when the construction of a new courthouse was proposed.

But while the building plan was approved in February 2007, Lightbourne echoed the sentiments of many other speakers that the project was delayed by many hurdles.

Best practice

The European Union (EU) has pumped in ?700,000 (J$87 million) to make the courthouse a reality.

"The new courthouse will provide much-needed facilities for children that also meet international best practice, including the possibility of children providing testimony on video," said the EU ambassador.

He said he hoped the facility would set the standard by which future structures are built.

Justice Bertram Morrison said the dislocation caused by the absence of a courthouse brought tremendous challenges to the administration of justice.

While welcoming the move to build the family court, Member of Parliament Ian Hayles grabbed the opportunity to appeal to parents, particularly fathers, to play their part in growing and nurturing their children.

The family court is projected to be completed in seven months.