Miss Li Tien Wong
District Judge, State Courts Singapore
The paper describes Community Justice and Tribunal Division (CJTD) experience in developing a community justice strategy encompassing both adversarial and non-adversarial justice tools in resolving disputes, and working with stakeholders to build a cohesive society.
The CJTD is the newest justice division in the Singapore State Courts and oversees both community and relationship cases. A unique feature of the CJTD is that the judges will deal with both civil and criminal process components unlike other justice divisions.
The CJTD consists of the Small Claims Tribunals (SCT), the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunals (CDRT) and also handles applications under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA).
The SCT provides a speedy and inexpensive process to handle small claims arising from disputes in contract for goods or services and residential tenancies. The claim will proceed for adjudication if there is no settlement by the SCT mediators. The SCT is not bound by strict rules of evidence or by normal court procedures, and there is no legal representation to keep costs to a minimum.
The CDRT is the last resort to deal with intractable neighbourly dispute cases. Mediation plays a critical role, and the CDRT may direct litigants to undergo counselling or mediation. The CDRT may also make special directions or impose a compliance bond or impose criminal sanctions or exclusion from residence orders.
The CJTD judges hear POHA applications under the civil court process and may grant a protection order to protect persons against harassment and unlawful stalking. There is also a simple self-help process for a subject of a falsehood to apply for the falsehood to be set right and the true facts brought out clearly.
The paper will also examine how CJTD has established working relationships with community stakeholders to offer therapeutic counselling services to address the underlying issues affecting the litigants.
Ow Yong Tuck Leong is a District Judge in the Community Justice and Tribunals Division of the State Courts. Mr Ow Yong graduated from the National University of Singapore in 1998 and was admitted as an advocate and solicitor of the Supreme Court in 1999. He joined the Singapore Legal Service in 2000 and has served in the Registry of Companies and Businesses, the Attorney-General’s Chamber and the Competition Commission of Singapore before his appointment in the State Courts in 2011.