-one matter still in court after six years; another pending after ten
With some strides made locally to adequately deal with matters related to sexual offences particularly those involving children, concerns have been continually raised over the delays and length of time matters of such are dealt with by the criminal justice system.
Some sexual offences matters have been languishing in the system for a number of years. One such case is the matter involving Muslim Scholar, Nezaam Ali, who was charged with several counts of Sexual Activity with a child by Abusing a Position of Trust.
It has been six years since Ali was charged but the matter is still in the Courts.
Ali, who was a 33-year-old Imam at the time, is alleged to have sexually assaulted the nine boys, who take Quran and Arabic lessons from him, between December 2011 and January 2012.
The virtual complainants allege that Ali had penetrative anal intercourse with them while they were minors. The incident allegedly took place as the boys were attending classes at an East Coast Demerara Masjid.
The Muslim Scholar appeared before a Magistrate on several counts of sexual activity with a child by abusing a position of trust. But the matter from all indications appears to be at a standstill with the disappearance of the medical reports and birth certificates, of the nine boys allegedly raped.
Last year, the matter was sent back to the Magistrates’ Court based on directive of the Director of Public Prosecutions, (DPP).
According to the information s released from the DPP’s Chambers, the DPP Mrs. Shalimar Ali-Hack, in letter dated February 13, 2017, remitted the matter to Magistrate Alex Moore to re-open the paper committals.
The DPP also issued a directive to the Guyana Police Force to obtain certified copies of the original documents before the re-opening of the paper committals.
According to the statement, subsequent to the first preliminary inquiry held before Magistrate Moore, it was discovered that the original documents which were tendered during the PI, had gone missing from the depositions.
Ali had been committed to stand trial in the High Court following a ruling by Magistrate Alex Moore. In 2013 after perusing the evidence brought before him during the preliminary inquiries, Magistrate Moore found that there was sufficient reason to send Ali for High Court trial.
However Ali, through his lawyer Nigel Hughes, applied to the High Court to quash the committal.
His application was made on several grounds, including that the Magistrate acted in excess of his jurisdiction when he failed to consider the expert opinion of Dr. Walter Ramsahoye, who testified that it was impossible for the accused to commit the act, since he is impotent.
This statement was the essence of Ali’s defence, one which the defence claimed was ignored by the prosecution and the Magistrate.
But Magistrate Moore in response, noted that police witness, Inspector Hatty David, testified that Dr. Ramsahoye’s opinion was formed from information provided by Ali, and was not one which came as result of doctors treating and attending to a medical condition, which the accused suffered, over a period of time.
Eventually, the then acting Chief Justice (CJ) Ian Chang ruled the court does not see it fit to quash the order of committal of the Magistrate.
Representatives of various child rights groups have since issued a collective call for an immediate and thorough investigation, into the disappearance of the files in this case.
One activist lamented the fact that the sexual offence case has languished in the court system for so many years. The activist stated that denying the alleged victims their right to a fair trial within a reasonable time, is a violation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Guyana has signed and ratified.
The activists noted the corruption in the court system and said his exposes Guyana as a country where access to justice and justice itself can apparently be perverted by money, power, access and influence.
The groups issued a call to the UN agencies in Guyana, and in particular UNICEF and all rights organizations to speak out publicly against the violation of the rights of child victims of sexual violence and to do all in their power to ensure that such rights are effectively protected.
Another matter that is still before the Court for close to a decade is the case against convicted Charlestown businessman, Kevin Jordan.
Jordan was released on $1 million bail, pending an appeal of the jail term imposed on him for sodomising a seven-year-old boy.
Jordan, of Lot 524 Republic Park, East Bank Demerara, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for rape following an in-camera trial, at the Georgetown High Court.
Jordan’s lawyers petitioned the Court of Appeal for him to be granted bail, pending an application to overturn his conviction and sentence.
The appeal Court subsequently released Jordan on $1 million bail, pending the appeal of his sentence.
The bail was granted, since it is likely that the businessman could be successful with the appeal.
However as a condition of his bail, Jordan was also ordered to lodge his passport/travel documents with the Court.
When the allegations surfaced in 2007, Jordan, the proprietor of Jordan’s Spare Parts at High and Broad Streets, Charlestown, was charged for sexually assaulting four minors. The victims were all boys, aged between six and eight years old.
The acts were allegedly committed at the man’s business place. However, the details did not come to light until a seven-year-old student of a primary school located a short distance from the Spare Parts dealership, complained of pains in the anus.
Blood was found after the child was examined. The boy was subsequently questioned and he implicated the businessman.
Three other boys came forward also alleging that Jordan had committed sexual acts on them during the lunch period at his business place. However, the latter cases never made it to the High Court.
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