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Dec 31, 2008 News
– Justice Desiree Bernard
Justice Desiree Bernard of the Caribbean Court of Justice stressed the need for Justices of Peace to become more active and the importance of Lay Magistrates.
Justice Bernard was at the time addressing a meeting held yesterday by the Justice of Peace and Commissioner of Oaths to Affidavits Association.
According to her, the appointment of Lay Magistrates is crucial and she urged the members of the association of Justices of the Peace to approach the Attorney General in an effort to make the Bill an Act.
Justice Bernard added that if the proposed Bill becomes an Act, Lay Magistrates will be able to assist in the outlying areas.
She also charged the members of the Association to do more than sign affidavits and other documents, and embark on assisting in the settling of disputes among the members of their community.
President of the JP Association, Hermon Bholaisingh, said that Justice Bernard challenged the association to put certain things in place within a year.
He added that he would steadfastly work to accomplish the things he was charged to do.
Bholaisingh also said that in the New Year he is looking forward to seeing the Attorney General, Doodnauth Singh, examine issues such as the Lay Magistrates Act.
According to him, he is seeking the help of the Chancellor, Carl Singh, to guide the Association and the Commissioner of Police so that the Justices of Peace and the police could work together to assist in settling matters rather than having every small matter go to court.
In a previous interview, Bholaisingh had said that Justices of Peace can play an integral role in helping to reduce the backlog that exists in the court system.
One of the ways in which this can happen, he added, is if the Lay Magistrates Bill comes into being.
According to Bholaisingh, there are many intelligent Justices of Peace who will be able to take up the post.
Reports state that the Lay Magistrates Bill came up in Parliament in 1999 and was referred to a select committee.
Bholaisingh noted that since 1999 nothing has come of the proposal for Lay Magistrates in Guyana.
The idea behind Lay Magistrates is to relieve congestion in the courts by providing additional personnel to hear cases of a limited jurisdiction.
With the Bill, a person is qualified if he/she is a fit and proper person with at least seven years experience in a senior position in a public or private sector field of activity.
Each court will have a clerk who at the time of appointment must have a Bachelor of Law degree of any Commonwealth country or any equivalent qualification, or who in the opinion of the Chancellor is a fit and proper person to be employed as a clerk.
The scheme of the Bill is that the clerk, when required by the Magistrate, will give advice within his competence about the law, practice or procedure on questions arising in connection with the discharge of his function.
The Lay Magistrate’s criminal jurisdiction will cover offences, the punishment for which does not exceed a fine of $15,000. Such offences may include a number of minor offences such as indecent language, disorderly behaviour, minor traffic matters, public health offences, cruelty to animals and other offences that attract small fines.
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