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Do not take the law into your own hands

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We are supposed to be a law-abiding people, but life could be difficult. We all know that the road in life is not always easy. There are smooth stretches, but there are bumps and patches along the way. Even though we want to do the right thing we are sometimes frustrated by the behaviour of others and what could be a simple matter could escalate into something serious. There is the neighbour who continually creates nuisance and tries your faith. She runs drain water on to your property, continually removes the boundary mark, plays loud music, allows all her fowls to roam over your property, keeps her property unsanitary and encourages the breeding of mosquitoes. You ask the person to desist, but you get no positive response and you decide to hit back in your own way. No one should trample on your rights, but you would need to take some legal recourse rather than take the law in your own hands by getting into a fist or cutlass fight.

Not many persons want to be embroil in a drawn out court battle, but when you take matters in your own hands you end up being the defendant rather than the complainant. I guess if there were some civilian bureau for complaint, many matters would be easily solved without the need for court battles. Justice might be slow, but it is sure. Hence you need to take your grievances to the court, but it must be a substantial not a trivial matter that could waste the court’s time. I know your matter is important to you, but sometimes a matter could be easily solved with a letter drafted by your lawyer to the defendant.

You have in your district the Magistrate Court that deals with simple civil and criminal matters. Criminal matters must be reported to the police and civil matters could be initiated by filling out a form that can be obtained at the police station. You can contact a lawyer if you need one to fill out the appropriate form. Where there is a matter that concerns criminal conduct, then a summons would be issued.

The next level in the legal process is the High Court. All criminal matters start in the magistrate court, but indictable matters are passed on to the High Court. Civil matters are started with the filing of a claim form at the High Court office in Kingstown. You can fill out the claim form yourself or get a lawyer to do so on your behalf. You would then have to serve the claim form on the defendant. The defendant must acknowledge service by filling out the acknowledgement of service document and filing it at the court office. The defendant can admit the claim by filing the admission form with the appropriate response. Where the defendant denies the claim then he or she must file a defence.

The claimant could give a reply. The matter would then go to a case management conference before a master. Depending on the issue the master could give a decision and the case could end at that stage, otherwise it goes on to trial before a judge. The Master gives direction as to how the case should proceed. The date of trial is fixed and the witnesses to appear are given. The matter is heard before a judge and after everyone is heard, the judge gives his decision. It could be an oral or a written judgment delivered some time after the hearing.

If you win your case, good for you, but the party who loses might not be satisfied and might want to appeal the matter. Go through the right channel if you have to. Don’t take the law into your hands.

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