Independent court service will improve justice

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Creating an independent court service will contribute to the efficient delivery of the notoriously slow justice system, said Stephie Dracos, Minister of Justice.

Drakou was at the closing ceremony, which marked the completion of a project on establishing an independent court service to re-engineer the court registries, funded by the European Union and implemented by the Council of Europe.

President of the Supreme Court Antonis Liatsos said experts from Ireland’s Institute of Public Administration revealed the areas for Cyprus’ justice reform.

He added that by creating an independent court service, the Supreme Court is discharged from its administrative duties and can concentrate on its judicial actions.

Drakou said the government firmly believes establishing an independent court service will effectively address administration challenges and serve the well-functioning of courts, contributing to the efficient delivery of justice.

She said the benefits of implementing new professional and administrative structures in the courts include more time for judges to focus on their judicial duties, better support to judges, better budgeting, risk management, strategic planning and resources management.

“Concrete steps have been taken towards the holistic reform of the judicial system, 2022 being a milestone with the establishment of the Supreme Constitutional Court, the new Court of Appeal, and the Commercial and Admiralty courts, which will provide a more functional and flexible justice.

Drakou said the case backlog would be reduced with new rules of civil procedure and e-justice.

“We are moving towards the end of a long road, maybe with a slower pace than we would like, but definitely in the right direction.”

Daniele Dotto, Deputy Director at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Structural Reform Support, said the project was structured around allowing judges to focus on their judicial duties and improve efficiency in case management.

“An effective justice system is vital for sustained economic development and growth as it can improve business planning, foster innovation and attract foreign investment.”

Dotto was confident the Supreme Court would pursue reform efforts, taking the necessary follow-up actions to implement the suggestions by the experts towards establishing an independent court service.

Speedy justice

Frederic Dolt, Head of the Department for the Implementation of Human Rights at the CoE, said the achievement of the project’s long-term outcomes and impact would depend on the implementation stage.

“For the Council of Europe, working with the member states on the justice sector reform is of fundamental importance because the rule of law, on which European democracies rest, cannot be ensured without fair, efficient and accessible judicial systems,” said Dolt.

Regarding the new administrative processes, deliverables included an ISO gap analysis and action plan, an evaluation report of processes in several registries (Nicosia, Larnaca, Famagusta) and areas for re-engineering, and a detailed action plan connected with five stages for the court service establishment.

Adamantia Manta, Policy Officer at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Structural Reform Support, said the development of modern structures for the management of the courts must take place as soon as possible.

Establishing the court service as a statutory agency with a representative board was proposed as the best solution for Cyprus to help the country address challenges recorded in the sector.

Former Supreme Court Judge and Reform Director George Erotocritou argued that planned reforms are not sufficient to modernise the entire court system, such as the criminal justice system, the courts of special jurisdiction and means of alternative dispute resolution.

“In contrast, the reform implementation rate has been slow and often hampered by the frequent change of key people and resistance to change.”