It is one of the least publicly ventilated issues in this country. Though individually lamented quietly, and almost universally believed at the lower levels, the ways of many frocked participants in the world of Guyana’s court system stand considerably diminished both inside and outside the halls of justice.
It is public secret that the local judicial world is bottom up, founders about, and heaps ignominy on its supposedly clever practitioners and the institutions of law and justice. What should have been a sterling, protective constitutional collective is dragged down.
By way of background and comparison, in other jurisdictions – well-advanced economically and technologically, well-versed in the law, well-stewarded via a robust canon of ethics – there are these sickening reports of terrible lapses by those trusted to represent honourably the best interests of people and state.
The results there are of men being put away for long stretches for murders, which they did not commit; of men languishing on Death Row for capital offences of which they were innocent; and of other felons serving decades in prison on very serious charges, such as rapes to which they were nowhere near.
In just about every instance coming to light, the men are later declared innocent and exonerated of all charges not through mere technicalities or genuine error; but because of egregious examples of misplaced prosecutorial zeal and overreach, distinctive shades of racism, and outright legal malpractice. Innocent men lose a lifetime of their best years that can never be recovered. The damage to the individual psyche is unimaginable to all others; other than those wrongly targeted and unjustly victimised.
There is only one piece of good news in these sordid examples of men and women using the power of the state to destroy the innocent. It is that, at great cost and through divine grace, the victimised working with the compassionate and dogged are able to salvage names, win freedom, and restore some of their reputations. They piece together somewhat something what remains of their wretched lives. Prosecutors and jurists go on; it is a small bunch of the troubled.
In Guyana, the opposite could be claimed with justification. Here the perception and grim reality is that of a judicial system turned on its head. It is of the state presenting the purposely incomplete; the noticeably weak, and the distinctly unpersuasive. It is of arbiters of justice appearing to stand ready to set free (with wink poorly concealed despite the stern countenances). There are these surreal scenes of advocates, seemingly of the people, making strenuous efforts to be shabby, disconnected, incompetent, and lacking in depth, preparation, and presentation of those cases that chill and bring cowering. It as if they are in partnership with opposing counsel. And as if the presiding adjudicators search for any paltry excuse and slender thread on which to hang not guilty verdicts.
What is open and shut doesn’t lock up the grievously accused; what is simple and straightforward falls apart; and what is endangering and devastating is worked out rewardingly to free felons to wreak more havoc. Things smell sharply: The sense is of justice prostituted openly and cheaply; and of injustice flourishing handsomely.
Unlike the great majority elsewhere, there is no focus to get wrongdoers (honestly), but to get them out of jail (discretely and richly). Knowing observers are left stricken; few are fooled. Who is there at the judicial bridge standing for the wounded and fallen? Who is holding back the tide of encroaching criminal hordes?
Even the most superficial, the most inexpert, the most trusting scrutiny confirms the upside down state of the way law is practised in Guyana on both sides of the bar. Through much legal malpractice, an entire society is sabotaged, when the true guardians are so few in number. Very little is said in public as to how bad and degraded the national magistracy is, in what is a strikingly perverse justice universe.
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