Feb 28, 2016 News
…to appoint part time judges
The Coalition government is getting ready to address a severe problem that has been plaguing the local
justice system for decades now. The Administration, through the Ministry of Legal Affairs, will soon begin addressing the backlog of cases, including civil cases.
This and other initiatives will be falling under a new Justice Sector Programme. The Programme is designed to consolidate improvements in the Justice Sector. It is a collaborative initiative between the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the government.
Under the project, US$49,020 has been allocated to allow for the disposal of backlog of cases. To do this, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams said that a number of measures will be implored including the appointment of part time judges to deal with the civil backlog. Williams said that this will be done within a specified time frame.
The judicial system is clogged by an overwhelming number of unfinished cases. The backlog is nothing new. Some cases date back to more than a decade. As a result, suspects languish in prison much longer than the length of time they would have spent had they been convicted.
While the backlog exists mostly in the civil and criminal courts no court is without work.
During the last ten years, the only attempt by the former PPP administration to solve the problem was to increase the statutory complement of Judges from 12 to 20 but the administration did not provide the courtrooms and chambers for them.
Outgoing Chief Justice Ian Chang had admitted that the situation is in dire straits. He said that in dealing with it, consideration needs to be given to a change in the leave system.
Currently, there is a rotating 10 weeks and three weeks leave system per year for Judges. He said that with such a backlog, Judges should not be off the job for 10 weeks.
Chang said that there is almost never a case where Judges, after returning from 10 weeks leave, return with a number of judgments ready to be handed down.
“Let them work,” Chang declared.
The media was always blaming the backlog on the shortage of Judges in the court. Several Editorials and articles were written to this effect; but there seems to be bigger matter, one that reportedly involves incompetence and in some cases “laziness.”
During his Budget speech, Williams said that the Guyana IDB initiative will see the setting up of a law revision office and undertaking a revision of Guyana’s laws to update them to 2015. US $182,260 has been allocated to deal with this.
In addition, Williams said that the programme will be setting up a Permanent Law reform Commission with Secretariat for the purpose of continuously examining Guyana’s laws and make recommendations on areas of reform. Just about US $504,150 has been set aside for this aspect of the programme.
There will also be training for judges, magistrates and prosecutors including writing of decisions and sentencing. This will be done with the use of US$ 42,150.
The project will also see the introduction of Voice Recognition systems for recording evidence in the criminal sessions in the High Courts and Magistrate Courts hearing serious offences. This will be done to enhance and speed up trails. Williams said that US $327,000 has been set aside for this.
There will also be an introduction of Cybercrime Legislation and a regime to train investigators, prosecutors, magistrates and judges to understand the nature of these emergent crimes. US$58,200 has been allocated to oversee this aspect of the project.
Provision of funding has also been made for the acquisition of legal research database programs.
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