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Chief Justice Varangkana Sucharitakul expanded mediation in 2009

Phuket Judges Work Nights, Weekends as Backlog of Cases Grows

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
PHUKET: With thousands of civil and criminal cases piling up, Phuket Provincial Court is now holding extra night sessions from Monday to Friday and sitting at weekends to clear the backlog.

The Phuket courts sat for the first time in an evening session on February 15 from 4.30pm to 8.30pm and worked weekend sessions last weekend from 9am-noon and 1.30pm-4.30pm.

The extreme measure comes despite the introduction of a successful mediation process three years ago that settles many civil Phuket cases before the people involved have to go to court.

In the absence of a Phuket Chief Justice, Family Court Chief Justice Authakrna Fujalern is Phuket's Acting Chief Justice. The two courts are combining on the night court and weekend court project, rotating judges to try to clear the backlog.

As with the police force and the prison, Phuket's budget for courts is governed by the number of registered citizens even though Phuket's actual population is swollen by Thais from other provinces, Burmese, and hundreds of thousands of tourists.

Justice Worawong Acharawomgchai is overseeing the extended operating hours of the Phuket courts.

Phuket's mediation system, enlarged and improved under then Chief Justice Varangkana Sucharitakul in 2009, involves community leaders in settling disputes.

Phuket's mediation system has been enlarged and adapted so that police at Phuket's eight stations try to mediate results where possible.

The court mediation process too is now also conducting evening and weekend sessions.

In a normal year, Phuket Provincial Court handles 12,000 to 13,000 cases but there are only 20 justices, so the workload is disproportionate.

Drugs cases amount to the greatest number that Phuket's courts have to rule on, followed by thefts and assaults. Cases involving expats and property disputes are reported to have grown in recent years, too.

Phuket Provincial Prison, not far from Phuket Provincial Court, is overcrowded with more than 80 percent of inmates accused of drugs offences.

Phuket's honorary consuls and business leaders have been pushing for additional police to improve the low ratio of officers to the Phuket population.

There are about 1100 police on Phuket, which allowing for holidays and sickness means that about 300 officers working eight-hour shifts are on duty at any one time.

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