Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 31, 2023 (SKNIS): The Legal Fraternity, including the chief justice, high court judges, lawyers and magistrates that gathered for the implementation of the ECSC E-Litigation Portal for the Saint Kitts and Nevis Magistrates Court—Civil Proceedings including Family Matters, on March 30, 2023, at the Solid Waste Management Conference Room, have all lauded the progress that the court has made in its attempt at modernizing its operations.
Speaking at the groundbreaking event, His Honour Renold Benjamin, Senior Magistrate, spoke to the many benefits of the implementation of the electronic portal.
“If we were to examine the way that legal practice is developing in the Federation in these modern times, attorneys-at-law and their clients expect the benefit of legal services to be provided electronically all around the clock,” said His Honour Benjamin.
“You would recall during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to prevent the disease from spreading, the courts and administrative offices and the entire activity of the Magistrate’s Court ground to a halt. I can say with the launch of the E-Litigation programme in civil and family matters, the situation in the country has to be catastrophic for the Magistrate’s Court to be closed as was the case during the pandemic,” Senior Magistrate Benjamin said.
“I am not saying that face-to-face and physical consultation are not important, but that process needs to be substantially supplemented by being able to work from any place and deliver service at any time and that is the expectation of the public and in this digital age, the demand is going to grow,” His Honour Benjamin said.
His Honour said that the implementation of the electronic portal “represents a major milestone in the Magistrate’s Court and in the history of the Federation of Saint Christopher and Nevis.”
He spoke about some of the benefits of the electronic portal.
“The portal allows court documents to be filed online rather than in person, among other things, enabling more efficient administration in the Magistrate’s Court and court offices. The launch of the electronic platform ensures that we in St. Kitts and Nevis will not be left behind. The electronic portal is integral in keeping up to date in the employment of digital technologies to facilitate timely and quality access to justice,” His Honour Renold added.
“One of the essential features of a democratic state is the unrestricted access to justice regardless of your race or creed, background or your socio-economic status in a country,” the Senior Magistrate said.
On the other hand, Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC), Her Ladyship, the Honourable Dame Janice M. Pereira, DBE, LL. D said the implementation of the electronic portal must be seen in terms of regional integration.
“Very early, looking at the court as a regional jurisdiction, it was a question of course that we are separated by water. We have to travel by air from state to state at times, so what is it that can link us together as a group, as a regional court, and so we have been on a mission basically to ensure that access to justice means, in part, linking the OECS Judiciary called the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court across our nine (9) member states and territories by a way that integrates its services across the nine (9)member states and territories, and so that was the focus of the E-litigation portal,” Her Ladyship Dame Pereira said.
“We’ve heard about the effectiveness that the portal has brought in the high courts and the court of appeal and this is what we strive for at the level of the Magistracy,” the Chief Justice said. “As the world continues to develop, we must remain competitive. Our states are small…but there are things we can do to make ourselves competitive.”
She expressed gratitude to the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis.
“I really want to express how grateful the court is for the cooperation of the Government of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis in the work of the court and ensuring that the court continues that development from strength to strength,” Chief Justice Pereira said.
The proceedings were moderated by Mr. Dwaymian Brissette, Information Services and Communications Manager at the ECSC. The ECSC Technical Team led by Mrs. Michelle John-Theobalds, Chief Registrar; Mr. Gregory Girard, Court Administrator and Mr. Mark Ernest, IT Manager, answered the questions of the media in relation to the electronic portal.