Support groups like Childlink Guyana, have been helping children who survived sexual crimes get through the court process.
Since the Sexual Offences Court was established earlier this year, more than two dozen cases have been disposed of and several persons have been convicted for sexual offence crimes.
Prior to the establishment of the court, a notable number of sexual offence matters were nolle prosequi, often because of complainants’ unwillingness to testify before the High Court.
The specialized Court is equipped with audio-visual devices to aid the testimony of witnesses. There are two screens in the courtroom that provide the complainants with a more suitable setting to face their alleged attackers.
However, the victim-friendly features of the recently installed Sexual Offences Court are not the only factor aiding in the successful prosecution of child rape cases.
The welfare and probation office under the Ministry of Social Protection and groups like ChildLinK through the Child Advocacy Centre (CAC) provide court support to child sexual abuse victims who have cases before the court.
According to information released from the group, Childlink provides court support services and pre and post-trial support to victims.
“ChildLinK has supported 16 clients from November 2017 to present. Of the 16 cases supported; there were 14 convictions, one not guilty verdict and one ongoing case,” the group said in a statement.
A ChildLinK Court Support Officer noted that the system serves justice and brings closure to the victims and the families.
One child victim related in her impact statement, “Now that the case is over, I feel a weight has been lifted off of my back. I deserve my innocence. At first, I thought that I was the only child that experienced such a horrible thing but learnt that I am not, and that gave me the courage to speak out”.
ChildLinK believes that the successful prosecution via the Sexual Offences Court sends a strong message to children and to the wider society that justice being served.
In addition, the group hopes that this will directly influence an increase in reporting of child sexual abuse and in the longer term improves the protection of children from sexual abuse.
Earlier this year, at the opening of the specialized Court, Chancellor of the Judiciary (Ag) Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards noted all stakeholders involved in the establishment and operationalization of the Sexual Offences Court deserve commendation for their successful efforts to improve the efficiency of the judicial system and afford victims of sexual violence the opportunity to have their cases tried.
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