With sittings of the night courts scheduled to come to an end on February 28, Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Justice Carl Singh has asserted that they have served their purpose.
After almost one decade of talks, the first sitting of the night courts commenced on October 10, 2016 at the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts.
The idea of the night courts materialized after the March 3, 2016 unrest at the Georgetown Prisons, where 17 inmates perished during an inferno at the penitentiary. Prisoners at the time vented frustration at the length of time they were kept on remand pending trial.
Magistrate Beverly Bishop-Cheddie, Magistrate Brendon Glasford, Magistrate Madan Kissoon, Magistrate Leslie Benjamin and Magistrate Liza Hanoman were assigned temporarily, to preside over matters slated for the night courts.
All these temporary magistrates are qualified attorneys-at-law.
Several matters being dealt with during the day courts were transferred to the night courts for hearing between 15:00hrs and 20:00hrs.
While Kaieteur News is still to compile information on the effectiveness of the night court, Justice Singh disclosed that the possibility of extending the night court has not been on the agenda.
According to Justice Singh, funding approved for the operation of the night court has nearly been exhausted, and there is no additional fund.
A total of $25M was secured by government to finance the payment of salaries of the temporary magistrates and ancillary staff.
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 Commission of Inquiry (COI) into the unrest was completed, it was revealed that 60 percent of inmates were on remand. Of that amount, 50 percent had been awaiting trial for more than three years and a 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.
Also, failures on the part of agencies of the state had contributed to the state of the prison. These include the judiciary, Magistracy, Probation Service, the Parole Board, Prison Visiting Committees and the Ministry of Public Health.
A high level meeting between representatives of Government and the judiciary was held and it was announced that night courts will be established.
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