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Parliament passes Small Debt Amendment Bill


Magistrates now have the power to award up to $15,000 in both contract disputes and civil action suites, in what government describes as a show of confidence in the ability of the Magistracy.{{more}}

On Thursday, February 21st, Parliament passed the Small Debt Amendment Bill.

As he presented the bill, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that the amendment to the current law will help the poor in society.

He explained that under the current law, the Magistrate’s Court could only grant a contract dispute settlement up to $5,000, while a civil action claim for damages, or defamation of character was limited to a $6,000 award.

Any amount being sought above that had to go through the High Court, which takes longer; sometimes up to two years, and accrues higher legal fees.

Senator Ronald Marks said that the new law will increase access of justice to all, and will help to reduce the back log in the High Court.

He said that as the Magistrate’s Court takes over some of the cases that would have had to go to the High Court, it will more speedily resolve the problems affecting poor people.

Marks noted government’s confidence in the Magistracy.

“It (the amendment) shows confidence in the Magistracy as presently constituted….The Magistracy has displayed such a growth in terms of the delivery of their justice and the quality of their decisions, that the government now feels confident to increase that jurisdiction to them, and it is something they should take credit for because of their work,” Marks said.

Senator Rochelle Forde also contributed to the debate.

She said that the new law represents government’s putting in place of things to help the general population of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

She also noted that many people feel more comfortable appearing in the Magistrate’s Courts than in the High Court.