The Government of Dubai has never been slow when it comes to thinking out of the box and adopting new habits, administrative techniques and innovative proceedings to improve its delivery of service to the people of the emirate. Indeed, it has been a driver and key influencer when it comes to adopting e-services and improving the quality of service and customer satisfaction. One would normally imagine that the administration of the justice system is one area where innovations might be difficult to implement, given the need to ensure that all proceedings and cases are fully and competently recorded, adjudicated to ensure the highest levels of transparency, and that the provisions of proper jurisprudence are rigorously followed to provide justice for all.

Now, a new initiative has been approved by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, during a meeting of the Dubai Executive Council on Tuesday. The new initiative sets up fast-track courts in Dubai to settle petty crimes within 24 hours. In effect, under his fast-track court system, which is to sit in police stations, minor cases such as minor assaults and offences related to drinking will be adjudicated and settled efficiently and effectively.

The new initiative will save the Government of Dubai an estimated Dh40 million annually and it’s also estimated that the new fast-track courts system will free up courts’ time to deal with more serious offences — and by diverting the minor cases to the fast-track system, there should be 60 per cent savings in courts’ time for the more serious cases. Going to court is never a pleasant experience, even if defendants are facing a minor charge. Waiting can be anxious and the whole process of having to wait for a court date, then appear, then re-appear in likelihood several more times, only adds to stress levels and fills the courts’ schedules with more hearings.

The new fast-track courts system will adjudicate on offences such as minor assaults, being drunk and disorderly, buying alcohol or keeping it without a proper licence, misdemeanours, failing to pay fines, and driving under the influence of alcohol. Importantly, the new fast-track court will also adjudicate and rule on cases pertaining to the writing of cheques where there are insufficient funds to cover them. Bad cheque cases in particular are accounting for more and more police time, and any effort to settle these is a welcome change.