– Four Magistrates attack backlog
Four months after the introduction of Night Court which was put in place to ease the backlog of cases, it appears that a great deal of work has been done by the four Magistrates who were assigned to the task.
The Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts will be concluding its Night Court next month.
According to information, the last sitting of the Night Court will be held on February 24 in Court Six before Magistrate Beverly Bishop-Cheddie.
The first sitting of the Night Court was held on October 10, last, at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts, and four temporary Magistrates presided over summary offences.
The capable quartet employed to tackle the backlog included Magistrate Beverly Bishop-Cheddie, Magistrate Brendon Glasford, Magistrate Madan Kissoon and Magistrate Leslie Benjamin.
As such Magistrate Kissoon held matters in Courts 10 and 11 on Mondays; Magistrate Bishop-Cheddie held matters on Tuesdays and Fridays in Court six; Magistrate Glasford held matters on Wednesdays in Court 12 and Magistrate Benjamin in Courts 8 and 9 on Thursdays.
The Night Court hearings are conducted Mondays to Fridays from 3:00pm to 8:00pm.
Kaieteur News understands that if there is any other build-up of cases, the Magistrates will return to tackle the matters.
Some of the summary matters that have been heard at the Night Court are: assault causing actual bodily harm, simple larceny, threatening and abusive language, threatening language, attempt to commit a felony, robbery with violence, fraudulent conversion, break and entry, unlawfully and maliciously wounding, etc.
Among the matters held in the Night Court was one in which Michael Ferdinand, a vagrant, was sentenced to three years imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to a charge which stated that he broke and entered the Christian Mission Church and stole a quantity of peanut butter. Before his sentencing he told the court “I took it because I heard the people at the church does normally give out food, but the day when I go there no one was there, so I decided to go and take it myself”.
The need for a Night Court was amplified after the March 3, 2013 prison unrest at the Georgetown Prisons at Camp and D’Urban Streets when 17 inmates, most of whom were on remand, lost their lives.
Out of the Commission of Inquiry into the unrest, one of the solutions highlighted was for the Government to undertake initiatives to reduce the quantum of backlogged cases.
After a high level meeting was held between the representatives of Government and the Judiciary the Night Court was established.
The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan and Minister of Legal Affairs Basil Williams.
Representing the judiciary were Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Carl Singh, Chief Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Ali-Hack and Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan.
A total of $25M was secured by the government to finance the payment of salaries of the temporary magistrates and ancillary staff. President David Granger had communicated his favourable assurance towards the establishment of the Night Court through Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo.
For many years the issue of backlogged cases was found to be responsible for the high prison population which resulted in the overcrowding of the penal system.
After the COI into the riot was completed, it was revealed that 60 percent of the inmates were on remand. Of that amount, 50 percent had been awaiting trial for more than three years and the further 30 percent for more than four years.
The report said that these figures and the lack of effective – or even ineffective action to remedy them, pointed to serious dysfunction in the administration of justice.
It was highlighted that delayed trials contributed significantly to the overcrowding and failures on the part of agencies of the state had contributed to the state of the prison.
Meanwhile, the daily sitting of the court is expected to continue Mondays-Fridays from 09:00hrs to 14:30 hrs.
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