Twelve of 289 cases tried during last quarter of 2012
– Essequibo district was without judge
By Abena Rockcliffe
Guyana’s courts are starting this year with a backlog of 277 cases. Only 12 of a listed 289 cases were tried during the October session of the criminal assizes.
Of the 289 cases, 240 were listed to be tried during the Demerara October 2012 assizes while 49 were to be tried in Berbice.
There was no Essequibo October 2012 Criminal Assizes since no Judge was assigned to preside in that county.
Only eight of the 240 cases that were listed to be addressed in Demerara were tried in the High Court of Demerara.
Justice Navindra Singh and Madam Justice Diana Insanally sat from the beginning of the Demerara October 2012 Assizes and they were joined by Justice James Bovell-Drakes during December.
Of the eight cases, four were completed by Justice Navindra Singh, three by Madam Justice Diana Insanally and one case was done by Justice James Bovell-Drakes in December.
Justice Navindra Singh presided over four murder trials. In the first trial, the accused pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter and was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment.
In the second murder trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty against the accused who was sentenced to death while the third murder trial accused was acquitted after Justice Singh upheld a no-case submission and ordered the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty.
Justice Singh, in the fourth murder trial intervened and ruled that there was insufficient evidence to proceed. The Judge directed the jury to return a unanimous verdict of not guilty and the accused was discharged.
The three matters which were done by Madame Justice Diana Insanally were for the offences of Murder and Carnally Knowing a Girl Under 15 years. There were two murder cases. In one of the murder cases, the accused pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of Manslaughter and was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment.
In the other Murder trial, a hung jury in proportion of eight guilty to four not guilty was arrived at which caused the Trial Judge to order a retrial for the accused.
In the third matter which was for the offence of Carnally Knowing Girl Under 15 Years, Madame Justice Insanally directed the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty for the accused after the virtual complainant stated that she did not wish to proceed with the matter.
The only murder trial over which Justice James Bovell-Drakes presided saw the accused being placed on $250,000 bail after the judge quashed the indictment subsequent to upholding the defence submission that there was no evidence to sustain the indictment. The State has appealed the Judge’s decision to quash the indictment.
Madame Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire presided over the Berbice October 2012 Assizes and completed four cases from a list of 49 cases.
The four matters completed were for the offence of murder. In the first murder case the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty for the accused who was sentenced to death by Justice George-Wiltshire.
In the second murder trial, the accused was found guilty and sentenced at the Court’s pleasure for a term to be reviewed by the High Court every two years on the anniversary of his sentencing on November 15, 2012. The accused was 15 years old at the time he committed the offence.
The third murder case saw the accused pleading guilty to the lesser offence of Manslaughter and was sentenced to 13 years’ imprisonment.
In the fourth murder trial in which two accused were jointly charged with the capital offence, Madame Justice George-Wiltshire upheld a no-case submission and directed the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty for both of the accused.
During last year, 60 cases were disposed of. Of those, 46 cases received attention in court and 14 cases were nolle prosequi by the DPP. Twenty-five were from the Demerara Assizes, 16 from the Berbice Assizes and five matters from the Essequibo Sessions.
There were 39 cases for the offence of Murder, five cases for Manslaughter, four cases for Rape, six for Carnal Knowledge, one for Abduction, two for Robbery under Arms, one Break and Enter and Larceny, one for Buggery and one (1) for Sexual Activity with a Child by Abusing a Position of Trust.
The 14 matters nolle prosequi by the DPP were for offences such as murder, manslaughter, rape, Carnal Knowledge and Incest of a Girl Under 15 years, Causing Grievous Bodily Harm with Intent to Murder, Robbery under Arms and Possession of Narcotics for the Purpose of Trafficking.
These cases were nolle prosequi because they have been pending on the list for in excess of fifteen years and the main witnesses to prove the offences charged are no longer available to testify. In addition, in one case for Manslaughter and another for Rape the accused died. In a Rape case and two Carnal knowledge cases the victims did not wish to proceed.
During the entire last year, there were 19 convictions, 19 acquittals, five hung jury and two quashed committals.
In the case for the offence of Sexual Activity with a child by abusing a position of trust, a charge under the new Sexual Offences Act 2010, the Judge ruled that the Preliminary Inquiry and everything that flowed was a nullity and ordered that the accused face a new Preliminary Inquiry. An amendment to the sexual offences act passed in parliament during the last sitting addressed that issue.
The January 2013 Assizes for Demerara will be opened on January 8. There are 235 cases listed to be heard during the Session before Madame Justice Roxanne George-Wiltshire, Madame Justice Dawn Gregory and Justice Navindra Singh.
The February Essequibo Assizes is expected to commence on February 19 before Justice Franklyn Holder; and, the February 2013 Assizes for Berbice will be opened on February, 5 before Justice Bassington Reynolds.