A number of measures will be implemented to further reform the judicial system in the New Year, according to Finance Minister, Winston Jordan.
Jordan in his 2018 Budget presentation Monday noted, that the government is committed to continue to reform and modernise the justice system in order to reduce the backlog and delays, and increase efficiency.
In the New Year, Jordan told the National Assembly, Government will be piloting a legal aid programme, which will work on the defence of minor, non-violent offenders, who are on pre-trial detention.
He noted that this is part of Government’s efforts to streamline a budget that is more child-focused and youth-friendly.
“It is not the wish of this administration to have children and youth incarcerated for petty offences, such as wandering. To continue to do so would be to deprive this nation of the true potential of its rich human capital.”
“By the end of 2018, the programme will commence work on the over 500 cases of the aforementioned type, on assessing the sustainability of this pilot legal aid programme, and on providing capacity building to non-governmental organisations that share a similar objective, “ he added.
The Finance Minister further stated that the work on the new legal aid programme is part of a broader vision, which seeks to reduce the burden on the prisons, allowing for a more people focused, and efficient justice system.
“It also allows for more effective use of our limited financial and human resources.”
The Minister noted that the Government will be establishing a Law Reform Commission, in the New Year.
That commission will work on amending and modernising our legislation to cater for non-custodial sanctions for various types of offence. Further, Jordan said, that the current system that incarcerates a person for the usage of harmful substances will be re-examined.
“Our people need our compassion and our help so that they can be rehabilitated and given the support they need to live healthy and productive lives.
Hence in 2018, we will be conducting a study on appropriate treatments for substance abuse as a health issue within the criminal justice system.
“This will inform our interaction with the Judiciary, as we assist in developing policies to reduce over-reliance on imprisonment. Probation services will also be strengthened to support this paradigm shift.
Highlighting the achievement of the judiciary within the last year, Minister Jordan said that he is happy to report that Guyana is the first in the Caribbean to have established a specialised court for sexual offences that is sensitive to the needs and circumstances of victims.
“The court will hear all indictable sexual offence cases, and will offer a rights-based approach, in recognition that victims tended to be re-victimised under the previous format.
As such, the court has been outfitted with protective screens and dedicated rooms, among other features.
To support the 23 operations of the court, model guidelines for sexual offence cases were developed, taking into account international best practices for the management of such cases.”
At present, the government is focused on the laying and passage of the Juvenile Justice Bill, which addresses diversionary options and access to legal aid for our children and youth, is anxiously awaited.
In the meanwhile, the Bill is being costed, so that its potential for additional financial responsibility, or for savings to the taxpayer, can be identified.
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