…scores forced to stand in the sun on a daily basis
Every week from Monday through Friday, the one thing that remains at the city’s summary court is image of scores of civilians in the sun waiting for their chance at a judicial hearing.
It has become a guarantee to see ladies struggling with infants or toddlers, some teenagers under umbrellas, men and women bracing the walls or leaning on the fence waiting to access justice.
Three months have passed since the doors of the refurbished city court was reopened to the public but despite the “facelift” many have commented that much thought has not been placed into the effective utilization of the building.
One of the major problems evidently affecting the court is that of space allocated to the court which deals with summary matters.
The largest number of summary cases, about 40 each day, is currently being heard by Magistrate Geeta Chandan-Edmond at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Court Ten.
That means that a large number of persons must report to that courtroom which has seating for approximately 20 persons.
The bar area contains a platform for the Magistrate with a clerk’s desk directly next to it. It also has a small table which can comfortably seat three lawyers directly facing an equally small table for the Prosecution.
Exactly one foot behind the Prosecutors’ table is a bench for officers for the court. To the left of the Prosecutors bench is a witness stand. Behind the lawyers bench is a prisoner’s dock which can comfortably fit only four prisoners at any given time. Patrons who occupy the civilian benches can at any time be touched by the prisoners as there is barely “space to walk out from the further seats sideways.”
It is in light of this that litigants have expressed sheer frustration at the space constraints at the court.
Some explained that while they know that they have to wait, “it is not easy task to be standing in the blazing sun for hours waiting on our names to get called.”
One woman said, “This is pure nonsense! How they expect people to be standing here whole time waiting in the sun. When you ask to go in, the lady at the door only tell yuh they ain’t got no space. And we got to stand out here for look how long!” Another claimed, “And when you in deh, you can’t even move. The space so tight and yuh deh right by them prisoners. What if they try to do something crazy?” “This thing just frustrating! Is like we begging fuh lil justice!”
But the problem does not end there. Legal officials are expected to have space allocated to them. They are also affected.
Often times, lawyers who have seats left on the bench are seen sitting at the Prosecution’s bench and even sitting with the litigants or standing up.
The Magistrate also faces the consequences of the space constraints. During a court hearing last week, Magistrate Chandan-Edmond halted the court proceedings citing security concerns after a defendant who did not find a seat had entered into the bar area.
Though there are orderlies present within the precincts even they evidently have a hard time dealing with maintaining order. They are often met with persons coming in with bottles and bulky bags.
“Hello maam, you can’t have that bottle there” or “There is no space in the courtroom, you have to wait outside and we’ll call you when your case is called” are the words often spoken by orderlies.
When contacted, an official in the court system too expressed concern over the situation. “I have noticed the large number of people out there and it concerns me. That court is facing a serious space problem.”
“The court that has to deal with the most number of people on a daily basis and persons are complaining of the situation but nothing has so far been done to correct this issue.”
“It baffles me why a court that deals with in excess of 40 matters on a daily basis be given such a designed court.”
Highlighting another issue, the official claimed, “The defendants are but a breath away from the witnesses. How can they feel safe?”
“The reality is that a lot of persons come seeking justice and with the accommodation at that court one must question where the consideration factor came in?” (Sunita Samaroo)
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