Falling on hard times doesn't automatically mean becoming entangled in lengthy court procedures
The evolution of the legal system is a symptom of a maturing society
Any country that seeks to play a leading role in the world has to be prepared to deal with all that entails. Developing the best and brightest in their fields and building the UAE’s future on the strength of its human capital, both home grown and drawn from all corners of the world, carries with it a certain responsibility. As in any society, that human capital comes with its own cadences; the great and the good do not exist in a bubble, free from the nuances of everyday life. There are marriages, divorces, deaths; some might fall foul of the law or stumble on hard times. In a society founded on the principle of equal justice for all, evolving the mechanism that delivers justice to keep pace with a changing world is key. That is why the announcement that Christian clergy will be able to mediate in family and personal matters outside the jurisdiction of Abu Dhabi’s sharia system is to be welcomed. It is further evidence that the UAE’s judiciary is embarking on an era of modernisation and progress in recognition that its growing population come from all walks of life, with rights which must be protected equally.
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The move, instigated as part of a broader legal review by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, cannot be seen in isolation. Together with decisions to fine those who write bouncing cheques rather than sending them to jail and punishing those who commit minor offences by sentencing them to community service, it reflects the fact the legal system – and the country as a whole – is evolving and maturing to accommodate the changing economic, social and technological times. This is also essential to ensure that the legal system is as efficient and effective as it can be. So for those with the need to have a will ratified or have a minister mediate in a divorce or custody agreement, the system now accommodates it. In the same way, last week’s announcement that minor offences can be punished with 19 types of community service alleviates pressure on the courts, the judiciary and the prison system. If it also means more offenders are seen sweeping the streets or maintaining public gardens, sending a very visible message that crime does not pay, that can only be a good thing. Being given a chance to repay your debt to society and learning what it means to be a productive member of the community starts from the bottom rung up.