Dubai announces major changes to justice system

Government to merge first instance, appeal and upper courts to cut case time from about 300 days to 30

A closeup shot shows the facade of the Dubai Courts building during a hearing on April 04, 2010 in the case of a British couple sentenced to a month in jail after being convicted of kissing in public in a restaurant in the Muslim Gulf emirate. The couple's lawyer said the appeals court upheld the one-month prison sentence against the two, named by the British press as Ayman Najafi, 24, a British expat, and tourist Charlotte Lewis, 25. The couple were arrested in November 2009, after they were accused of consuming alcohol and kissing in a restaurant in the trendy Jumeirah Beach Residence neighbourhood.     AFP PHOTO/STR / AFP PHOTO
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Dubai is to overhaul its courts system to cut the time a case takes from up to 300 days to 30 days.

Dubai Courts on Monday said it would merge the three courts - first instance, appeal and cassation - into one to improve efficiency and cut costs.

This means three judges will hear each case at the same time under the new 'C3' system.

Previously, the three courts each heard entire trials and issued their own judgments on cases typically spanning months or longer.

It is not expected that judges would physically sit together in the same hearings - but that the whole process would run concurrently and be completed in one month.

Tarash Al Mansoori, director-general of Dubai Courts, said: "The courts' project will merge the three levels of litigation into a single court consisting of three judges, each representing a level of litigation - first instance, appeal and cassation."

He said the move will shorten litigation time, simplify procedures, reduce costs and end prolonged judicial proceedings.

At present, the court said cases take up to 305 days between the filing of the complaint or charge and a judgment.

A case is seen by up to 11 judges and three clerks and Dubai Courts currently handles about 60,000 criminal and civil cases per year. Under the new system, it aims to cut that to three judges and one clerk.

Al Mansoori told The National that the intention is not to prevent a convicted person from appealing.

There would be the ability to file a petition for a judgment to be reconsidered - but not a retrial.

He said a new law is being looked at within a time frame of two years set by out by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai.

“Within these two years, the new law should be drafted and approved and the C3 court should begin working," he said.


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Dubai Courts also aims to cut the cost of hiring a lawyer - which is notoriously expensive - by half.

At present, a suspect or claimant may also have to appear in physically court up to 15 times, which the government also hopes to cut down by using remote video proceedings.

Judge Jamal Al Sumaiti, director-general of Dubai Judicial Institute, trains prosecutors and officials for the judiciary.

“Unlike what people reading about this project may think, there is no way that all three judges from all three courts will be sitting in one room," he said.

"To serve true justice is also to give the litigator the chance to defence him or herself in front of each judge separately, which means that each judge will be hearing cases privately in a dedicated room for that purpose."

He also expects the system to be rolled out with minor cases initially and did not believe that every crime or civil dispute would necessarily be dealt with the C3 system.

Criminal lawyer Awatif Mohammed, from Al Rowad Advocates, welcomed the move but said the new system would be a "great challenge for all those involved".

"The court needs to speed up the process of providing sources and documents to the litigator or their lawyer following each ruling, and the lawyers need to speed up the process of submitting defence and supportive documents,” said Ms Awatif.