All indictable matters should be prosecuted by trained legal practitioners – former Attorney General
Former Attorney General, Doodnauth Singh, is convinced that all indictable matters should be prosecuted by qualified attorneys at law from the chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Singh, a Senior Counsel who resigned last year as Attorney General after serving for close to five years as a technocrat in the Bharat Jagdeo administration, told this newspaper that he had always held the view that police prosecutors should not be the one prosecuting certain high profile cases.
“I’ve always felt that indictable matters should be dealt with by legal practitioners,” Singh said during a recent interview with the Kaieteur News.
Although there are cases where special prosecutors are appointed by the DPP, in the main most cases in the Magistrates’ Courts are prosecuted by police ranks who undergo limited training in the legal field.
To the state’s credit, all matters in the High Court are handled by legal practitioners from the DPP Chambers.
More recently, the DPP herself, Shalimar Ali-Hack, opted to prosecute television station owner Chandra Narine Sharma in his carnal knowledge case.
Questions have arisen about the competence of police prosecutors coming up against high priced defence attorneys, in most cases leading to an imbalance in justice.
Senior Counsel Singh recalled that in the 1970s and 1980s the PNC administration had appointed special magistrates to hear certain cases mostly consisting of corruption and on each of those occasions trained lawyers prosecuted.
“I remember prosecuting in those cases. I did several prosecutions and I’ve always said to then DPP and to the present DPP, that lawyers should prosecute. What I’m told is that there is a shortage both in the AG chambers and in the DPP chambers,” Singh told Kaieteur News.
Singh himself was in demand throughout the Caribbean, having also prosecuted in high profile matters in Grenada, Dominica and Trinidad and Tobago.
He said that he had suggested that the emoluments of operatives in both chambers be reviewed but that never came about.
When one takes into account the amount of money a young attorney at law can make in private practice, no wonder newly appointed legal practitioners are not encouraged to work with the state, except on a contractual basis.
But Singh now retired last year after 50-year legal practice, believes that many young attorneys of today with all the facilities available to them could do much better in terms of the presentation of their legal arguments.
“What astounds me is the way in which they present their arguments. They have all the facilities. They have internet and everything they need to do all their research. What I found is that people abuse these systems,” the retired senior counsel stressed.
He also pointed to the presenters in the National Assembly who also quote verbatim from material obtained from the internet.
He is however optimistic that the glory days of Guyana’s legal practitioners are not yet over, since there are many young attorneys at law who can hold their heads up high.
“The presentation is what I find a little bit disturbing. They might do the research, they might do the preparation, but the presentation is not the way it ought to be done,” Singh said.