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Family courts to be moved to better accommodation

Puisne Judge Nicole Stoneham, left, with Alexandra Domingues, Registrar of the Supreme Court, and Alfred Maybury, director of the Department of Child and Family Services (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

A new and friendlier look is coming for the island’s family courts, court registrar Alexandra Domingues told a judicial seminar on Friday.

Ms Domingues said that the family courts at present were all too often “a very uncomfortable space to be”.

“The idea is that all of the family courts will be in one space,” she said. “While it’s sort of the case right now, it’s not really accommodating for any sort of positive experience or at least to minimise any sort of anxiety for parties appearing before the courts.”

Ms Domingues said she had spent several years “fighting to get us appropriate accommodation”.

The seminar on matrimonial, child and family law applauded Debi Ray-Rivers, director of the child sexual abuse prevention charity Saving Children and Revealing Secrets, who said that the charitable sector could pitch in if a lack of financing was holding the reforms back.

“It shouldn’t have to be because of money,” she added.

The Registrar of the Supreme Court said the new family courts would be “a space that is not intimidating – colourful, not sterile”.

Ms Domingues said: “I am happy to share that we are coming to the end of the design phase.”

She said the fifth floor of the Dame Lois Browne-Evans Building on Court Street would be set aside “solely for the family courts”.

She said it would be “more natural and less intimidating” with “no intermingling” with other divisions of the courts to afford better privacy.

Ms Domingues added that more resources were required for help with offering “mediation before parties come to the courts” and to educate the public on what court appearances entailed.

“A lot of people with court proceedings have the expectation that they come to court once, and that’s it,” she told the forum. “That is very far from how it works.”

Kelly Hunt, executive director of the Coalition for the Protection of Children, applauded moves to make the courts more comfortable for young people.

She told The Royal Gazette: “Where there is a will, there is a way.

“We commend the judicial training institute for their holistic approach to matters involving children and families in court.

“Through these legislative changes and amendments in process and procedure, it is clear that a child-friendly justice system is the goal of the judiciary.

“We are optimistic and encouraged by this direction of a child-centred focus.”

Ms Hunt added: “Ultimately, we have to find the resources to provide further training, mediation services and a litigation guardian process in place to minimise further trauma, and give people hope.”

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Published June 21, 2022 at 7:56 am (Updated June 21, 2022 at 7:56 am)

Family courts to be moved to better accommodation

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