St. Maarten’s court cases up 6 per cent

PHILPSBURG–The number of incoming court cases in the Dutch Caribbean grew by an average 4 per cent last year as a result of increases for Bonaire (37 per cent), Curaçao (8 per cent) and St. Maarten (6 per cent), while Aruba (-7 per cent) saw a drop.

This was mentioned in the annual report 2016 of the Joint Court of Justice. The budget was 34 million Antillean Guilders and left a positive result among other reasons because of lower personnel cost, as not all vacancies were filled.

The pension burden also went down due to changes in the General Pension Fund APS regulations. For example, there is no longer an early retirement VUT arrangement.

On the other hand, the contracting of employees and temporary workers as well as incidental use of judges and state councils from the Netherlands cost more. In addition, courses and trainings were followed by persons in leading functions.

At the same time, due to the still open posts and people being on sick leave for a long , travel- and accommodation expenses rose. In the meantime several vacancies have been filled and a solution was found for those structurally ill.

The two-year project Law Enforcement to strengthen the fight against border-crossing crime in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom was funded by the Netherlands to the tune 1.2 million euro of which half last year. This was for the salaries of a judge of instruction, a judge and two judicial secretaries, but because they came later than planned more than 500,000 euro is left and will go to the 2017 budget.

The other court cost such as the use of interpreters and translators went up too. So-called mega cases such as “Magnus” and “Maximus” regarding the murder of PS-leader Helmin Magno Wiels demanded a “disproportional capacity.”

Since 2015 six court officials and judges are in training. The intention is to recruit more locals and crease additional trainee spots.

Last year also saw a first in terms of the “pre-pack” for bankruptcies, meaning businesses make a restart to be able to pay creditors and maintain jobs. From January 1 it’s also possible for judges in Curaçao to refer parties to mediators and resolve their differences outside of the courtroom.

The Court in First Instance cases on all the islands totalled 37,510 compared to 36,188 in 2015. The number of completed cases was 35,679 compared to 35,070 in 2015.

Most appeal cases are registered in Curaçao and grew from 788 in 2015 to 811 last year (3 per cent). The number of completed cases went down from 801 to 752 (-6 per cent.

Source: The Daily Herald