Rape accused who go missing and alleged victims who are reluctant to testify are among a number of factors that contribute to sexual offence trials being delayed for lengthy periods.
Officials attached to the office of the Director of Public Prosecutors, (DPP) made this disclosure last week, while responding to concerns over the length of time it takes before some rape cases are heard.
Kaieteur News had previously highlighted two rape cases that have been scheduled for trial for more than a decade.
The cases were that of Roy Rahaman and Colin Smith.
Rahaman has been charged eleven years ago for buggery and carnal knowledge of a girl under 15. Smith was charged for raping a 12 year old girl, some 19 years ago.
The cases are on the list of the October sessions of the Demerara Criminal Assizes.
This newspaper had obtained information which suggested that Rahaman, who was charged in March 10, 2007, was still in jail awaiting trial.
But the DPP in a release stated that Rahaman was on bail while Smith, who is also out on bail for allegedly raping a girl under the age of 12, is still to stand trial nineteen years after he was charged.
Smith was arraigned before Magistrate R. Rooplall a month after the crime was allegedly committed.
About four months later, he was committed to stand trial. Information shows that in some instances, persons were committed to stand trial for various sexual offences since 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.
However, neither Rahaman nor Smith can be located.
Some State lawyers said that incidents in which sexual offence accused go missing are all too prevalent.
They said there are a number of instances in which the complainants and witnesses are ready to proceed with the matter but the accused cannot be found.
In contrast, there are cases in which the accused is available, but the alleged victims other witnesses are reluctant to testify.
“Then the matter has to be stood down until those persons are ready. There are also instances in which the complainant and accused do not respond, even after the office of the DPP advertises for them to come forward or sends out radio messages,” one legal official said.
“After a number of years such matters can be nolle prosequi.
“But how can the State discontinue a matter that the accused has been evading justice? It wouldn’t be fair to the complainant.”
And there are added challenges, such as administrative hiccups.
“We cannot proceed with cases if the depositions from the Magistrates’ Court are not available or there is an error on the deposition. Then we cannot proceed to prosecute the matter. It has to be sent back to the Magistrates’ Court.”
“There is also the issue of whether an accused is requesting time to obtain a lawyer, before the matter is brought to trial. So there are a number of factors which result in delays.”
The DPP had previously responded to questions about the manner in which rape cases are selected for trial.
Over 200 cases have been listed for trial at this session. Of the cases, sexual offences have dominated with a staggering 148.
Over the past years, there has been a high volume of these cases.
The sexual offences include carnal knowledge of a girl under 15 years, carnal knowledge of a girl under 12 years, buggery, rape, indecent assault of a male, sexual activity with a child family member, sexual activity with a child by abusing a position of trust, sexual assault and incest.
A vast majority of the alleged victims are children, with most of the perpetrators being males. Justice Jo Ann Barlow, Sandil Kissoon and James Bovell-Drakes have been roistered for this session. Justice Barlow has been assigned to the Sexual Offences Court.
It is highly unlikely that all of these cases will be disposed of in the ongoing assizes. Hence, the majority of them will be pushed over to the next session, which is scheduled to commence in January.
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