Mar 22, 2016 News
– despite meetings between executive, judiciary
Following on the heels of recent meetings between the Executive and the Judiciary to work out ways to
ease prison overcrowding, former Minister of then Home Affairs, Clement Rohee, has claimed that such meetings were held before, but the Judiciary took little interest in addressing this issue afterwards.
Stating that during his tenure, things were done administratively to ease overcrowding, Rohee said that there was a meeting in 2013 with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Chief Magistrate.
“That same meeting that they just had,” Rohee related yesterday, “We had a similar meeting in 2013, where we spoke of overcrowding issues at the prison and nothing happened out of these meetings. The bulk of the responsibility rests with the judiciary and magistracy to take action.”
He acknowledged that former Chief Justice, Ian Chang did take the initiative to give bail to a number of prisoners.
“The only ones that we (Home Affairs Ministry and Prison authorities) did not consider for remission were rape, murder and crimes committed with firearms,” Rohee said. “But the thing is, the criminal justice system was just very slow, and that is why the Home Affairs Ministry, together with the prison, decided to take certain action.”
Rohee noted that this was all done within their mandate, but that he could only hope for results in an area, the judiciary, over which the administration had no control.
There had been testimony from a prisoner, Owen Belfield, during the COI that measures that were supposed to be in place in the prison were not there. One of these was the visiting Justices, as stated in the Prison Act Chapter 11:01 of 1957.
The Act states that “there shall be in respect of each prison in Guyana a Board of
visiting Justices and the Minister may appoint for such time as may be specified in the appointment such and so many justices to be members of such Board.”
These were mandated, under the Act, to “visit any prison in respect of which he is a visiting justice and may inspect any part of such prison, may enquire into and examine the food, diet, clothing, treatment and conduct of prisoners, may question any member of the prison staff or prisoner may hear complaints from any prisoner, may enquire into any abuses and irregularities in any prison and shall ascertain as far as possible, whether the provisions of this Act and the prison rules are being complied with and may make a report upon any such matters to the Minister.”
Questioned about the visiting Justices, Rohee acknowledged that the measure was never established. However, he explained that the parole board was functioning.
“The parole board was very active,” he said. “And we also had the meeting with the (judiciary). They were expected to take action, but I don’t think any action was taken. We also were pushing for uniformity in community sentencing. In other words, rather than sentencing people for these small petty crimes, they would do community service.”
Finally, Rohee spoke of the work the Cops and Faith community initiative did. This initiative was launched in 2013. He noted that a bottom line of this initiative was to keep youths out of the court system.
Last week, the talks between Executive and Judiciary lasted over two hours and were held in the Boardroom of the Court of Appeal. Present were the Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo; Vice President and Minister of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan; Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams; and Minister of State, Joseph Harmon.
The justice system was represented by the Chancellor Carl Singh, Acting Chief Justice, Yonette Cummings-Edwards; Director of Public Prosecution, Shalimar Hack and Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan.
Chancellor Singh had assured the delegation that all necessary initiatives will be considered to expedite trials and to review bail to reduce the number of prisoners on remand. Of concern, however, is the fact that the large number of prisoners on remand has been prevalent for years.
Meanwhile, Rohee rejected calls that he ought to appear before the Commission of Inquiry (COI), which is being held at the Ministry of Public Service and is probing the circumstances of a prison fire that claimed the lives of 17 inmates.
It was felt that Rohee and other past administrators could provide insight into prison conditions leading up to the fire.
“I think the COI should get as much information as they want from the former Ministry of Home Affairs. All the records are there, whatever they want to know on the Georgetown prisons, there is a plethora of documents and information on every single aspect of the prison operations at the Home Affairs/Public Security Ministry and the Guyana Prison Service.”
Jan 23, 2021Kaieteur News – The Guyana Jaguars wrapped up their practice matches in preparations for next month’s Regional Super50 tournament set for Antigua with the last of three games yesterday at the...
Jan 23, 2021
Jan 23, 2021
Jan 23, 2021
Jan 22, 2021
Jan 22, 2021
Kaieteur News – It was never meant for bureaucratic laws to be cast in cement. Context is everything in life. There... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]