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Courtpay more convenient to public—CJ
The Judiciary is defending its move to introduce an electronic payment method for court fees and fines.
In his address at the Ceremonial Opening of the 2018/2019 Law Term yesterday, Chief Justice Ivor Archie sought to deflect criticism over its Courtpay system, which was implemented for making and receiving monthly child maintenance payments.
Archie said he was astounded by some commentary on the issue, including claims the system breached the doctrine of separation of powers.
“The Judiciary has always been a revenue collecting centre and a very responsible one at that...We seize property and conduct auctions, so please, before you tell us how to run the place, it might be helpful to educate yourself,” Archie said, as he noted that even doubles vendors were now using electronic payments.
He said that since the system was introduced in April, 320 people had volunteered to use it. According to Archie, users of the system were the only citizens who were able to access maintenance payments after courts across T&T closed briefly in the aftermath of last month’s 6.9 magnitude earthquake.
He also sought to dismiss criticism of the small user fee for the system.
“Contrary to concerns in some quarters, there is nothing illegal about a small user fee similar to that paid by anyone using Linx or other comparable systems,” he said, as he revealed the entire system cost the Judiciary less than $100,000 to implement.
Archie also said Parliament was currently debating introducing the system for all other court fees and fines, as he suggested such a move would improve safety, accessibility and would be more convenient for court users.
The Payment in Courts Bill is currently before the House of Representatives and was adjourned to next Wednesday after Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi introduced amendments during yesterday’s Parliamentary debate.
Archie said such reforms were necessary as the country continues to battle with economic issues.
“One of the exciting challenges of managing reform in times of financial stringency is that we are being forced to become more and more efficient,” Archie said.
Speaking with reporters after the ceremony, Law Association of T&T (LATT) president Douglas Mendes, SC, denied his organisation was opposed to the system. Rather, he said there merely made suggestions on how to improve it.
“For example, one of the suggestions we made was instead of putting all the money the Judiciary collects into one account, we should put it into separate accounts so there isn’t any intermingling of funds,” Mendes said.
He also suggested that fines should not be paid into an account bearing the Judiciary’s name.
“The point is if a judge fines someone for the commission of an offence and then the money ends up in an account in the Judiciary’s name, it could potentially give the impression that the Judiciary has an interest in the process,” Mendes said.
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