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$151M to convert convent into Court

By Clint Chan Tack Friday, December 20 2013

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Convent court: Government will spend an estimated $151 million to convert St Joseph's Convent San Fernando, into a Family Court....
Convent court: Government will spend an estimated $151 million to convert St Joseph's Convent San Fernando, into a Family Court....

CABINET yesterday approved an estimated $151 million to convert the former St Joseph’s Convent in San Fernando into a new Family Court for the southern city.

The announcement was made by Attorney General (AG) Anand Ramlogan at the final post-Cabinet news conference at the Office of the Prime Minister, St Clair, where Ramlogan said the final payment to the St Joseph Sisters of Cluny for the convent property was $30 million.

Noting the Family Court in Port-of-Spain “has been an outstanding success story for the administration of justice and the Judiciary,” Ramlogan said Cabinet was pleased to approve expenditure of $150, 878,850 “for the construction of a family court in San Fernando.”

Outlining the chronology of this decision, the AG said, “On March 15, 2012 Cabinet had agreed to pay the sum of $30 million to the Sisters of the St Joseph Cluny as full and final settlement of the final purchase of the property located at the St Joseph’s Convent compound at the corner of Lord and Paradise streets in San Fernando.”

He explained the money approved yesterday by Cabinet “will be spent to refurbish and expand for the fit out of the property to accommodate the Family Court in San Fernando.” Ramlogan observed there has been a steady increase in the number of family-related cases between 2009 and this year, with most occurring from 2011. “From a base 8,070 cases in 2009 to 2010, the overall case load has increased over the following three years by five percent to 8,941 in 2012, 2013,” Ramlogan said.

Noting that a family court is “badly needed” in south Trinidad, Ramlogan said Cabinet’s decision to construct the facility is reinforced by “so much publicity in recent times about the breakdown in family life and the negative social consequences of that.”

Describing the Family Court as a “model sophisticated one stop shop for family justice that will augur well for the social fabric of our nation,” Ramlogan said the establishment of the facility in San Fernando will greatly relieve the workload of the San Fernando High Court.

“This court will provide reinforcement and social support for the matrimonial services that the Judiciary provides. It will also boost the San Fernando Supreme Court which deals with a large amount of matrimonial matters and will assist in that regard, in no small way,” he stated.

Referring to the “conversational approach” which the Family Court uses to resolve matters which come before it, Ramlogan said the Court’s success is measured in terms of statistics and the feedback it receives from its customers.

He reminded reporters the Family Court offers services such as onsite alternative dispute recognition mechanisms, mediation, social intervention, child and youth day care services. The AG also listed petitions for divorce, legal custody, access and paternity and adoption as some of the matters which the Family Court deals with.

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