May 14, 2010 News
There will soon be moves to introduce alternative sentencing such as Community Service for custodial sentences of less than six months.
This was revealed by Head of the Presidential Secretariat and Cabinet Secretary who told media operatives that the move was as a result of a review by Cabinet with the intention of its implementation and standardization in the Criminal Justice System
Dr. Luncheon said that the executive have decided that they will adopt the general aims, objectives, rules and procedures to allow for the introduction of alternative sentencing in courts of appropriate jurisdiction for custodial sentences of less than six months.
However, he said that “the feeling now is that this option of alternative sentencing which is intended to avoid custodial sentence and provide for other options like community work, would have a number of benefits to the communities, the penal system and the convicted person, who would not have to spend time at the State’s expense.”
He noted that after the matter is taken to the chairman of the Judicial Services Commission (JSC), then it will be decided as to whether it will be an option that magistrates exercise in their absolute discretion or be a binding feature that is expected to be implemented in conditions under which alternative sentencing is being proposed.
In April last year, the PNCR had withdrawn a motion it had tabled for debate calling on the administration to institute custodial sentence.
While the government was not opposed to the idea there was no commitment to a time limit.
The motion was piloted by PNCR frontbencher, Deborah Backer, and withdrawn by the party’s chief whip Lance Carberry after the government used its majority in Parliament to remove the time limit for bringing the proposed legislation to the House.
Carberry had told the House that the motion was meaningless without the time limit and as such the party wished to withdraw it.
The time limit was removed by way of an amendment tabled by Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee, who told the House that such legislation was a significant undertaking and required a lot of consultation among other related activities and the time line set by the opposition made such an undertaking impossible.
Backer, in her contribution, had noted that there is an Extra Mural Work Order that caters for community service but it leaves much to be desired.
The Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act makes vague reference to alternative sentencing, but it is grossly underutilised.
She noted that measures must be put in place to cater for non-custodial sentences that would benefit all and sundry.
She said that in the Justice Sector Reform Strategy there is mention of non-custodial sentencing and that the motion was in keeping with modernising the nation’s laws.
According to Backer, the non-custodial sentencing would also help to reduce the overcrowding in prisons and would avoid the creation of more hardened criminals.
People’s Progressive Party/Civic member, Anil Nandlall had told the House that he was of the view that community service, as penal sanction for certain types of offences, is an attractive and progressive sociological and jurisprudential concept.
He said, however, that when he makes a presentation in the House, he represents a constituency and it is that constituency’s views that must be presented.
He had told the House that the necessary consultations to solicit the views of the populace were not done as yet.
He said that the government is cognizant of the fact that the introduction of community service orders, as a permanent feature of the criminal justice system, can convey the erroneous impression and can send the mistaken signal that the government is relaxing its position on the issue of crime and criminality.
Nandlall thus pointed out that, “It therefore behooves the Government to proceed cautiously on this issue and in so doing to consult widely with our people, not only to solicit their views, but also to inform and edify them in respect of the reasons and rationale for implementing such a measure and the benefits which can be derived.”
The PPP Member of Parliament also reminded the House that Guyana is a poor country with limited financial and other resources.
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