Nov 29, 2020 News
Three years after establishment….
Kaieteur News – On November 13, 2017, Guyana’s first Sexual Offences Court was established with the Supreme Court of Judicature (High Court) in Georgetown. Since then, the Sexual Offences Court has made some significant strides towards the overall improvement of the criminal justice system with two more specialized units in Essequibo and Berbice.
According to a release from the Supreme Court on the third anniversary of its establishment, Head of the Judiciary, Chancellor Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards has lauded the Court for adopting an integrated approach among all stakeholders in the criminal justice system.
Justice Cummings-Edwards noted that since its establishment, the Court has aimed to have a faster disposal of cases in an environment that respects the privacy and the dignity of victims through the use of special measures to aid witnesses giving evidence.
However apart from the physical setting, the Chancellor pointed out that the Sexual Offences Court provides for the integration of all social workers and case providers, forensic interviewers and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system, with the aim of reducing the often insensitive treatment of victims of sexual offences and reducing the incidence of retraumatization of the victims.
“The input of psycho-social services and counselling by social workers/probation officers and others must be hailed, as these personnel understand the dynamics of society and the vulnerability of marginalized groups, and can assist both victims and accused persons,” the Chancellor added.
She noted that part of recognizing its achievements, a review of the Court‘s operation for three years was conducted, and the statistical data which revealed inter alia, that females represented 92 percent of the victims while males represented 8 percent.
According to the Chancellor, another factor highlighted, is that, the most prevalent type of offence is rape of a child under 16 years.
She noted that the most common age of victims was 13 years old, with the oldest victim being 77 years old and the youngest, a one-year-old.
Additionally, the minimum length of trial is one day and the maximum eight days. As it relates to the physical features, the Chancellor noted that the use of screens for vulnerable and intimidated witnesses to prevent them from seeing the accused while giving evidence has proven especially effective.
“The witnesses also have the option to give evidence during the trial from outside the court through a televised link to the courtroom,” Justice Cummings-Edwards added.
Another special feature of the Sexual Offences Court, the Chancellor said, is the use of anatomically correct dolls for taking evidence from children who may have difficulty verbalizing the details of their assault.
In a similar commentary, Chief Justice (Ag) Roxane George-Wiltshire stated that a supportive environment for victims is necessary to ensure that their interactions with the justice system is less traumatic.
The Chief Justice (CJ) explained that governmental agencies such as the Probation Services and the Childcare and Protection Agency of the Ministry of Human Services, and non-governmental organizations such as Red Thread, Help and Shelter, Blossom Inc. and Child Link, provide support to victims through forensic interviews, counselling and attending court with them.”
She emphasized that data collection is key to enhanced performance.
“Therefore, data is collected, capturing relevant details of each case such as the gender and age of victims, gender of the accused, place of the alleged offence, whether the accused has a lawyer, and the length of time each trial takes. This has permitted the judiciary to garner information so as to be more responsive to the needs of victims and accused, thereby ensuring improved access to justice and fair trials,” Justice George-Wiltshire added.
“Importantly,” she noted “since sexual violence is a human rights violation, the establishment of the Court is consistent with Guyana’s state responsibility to take steps to protect individuals from human rights abuses and grant redress according to law.”
In this regard, the CJ said that the Supreme Court and the judiciary of Guyana commits to continuing to improve the crucial service the Sexual Offences Courts provide to the society.
In 2010, the Sexual Offences Act, Chapter 8:03 made provisions for the establishment of a Sexual Offences Court.
The specialized court was delivered to Guyanese in November 2017– the first ever Sexual Offences Court in Guyana and the Caribbean was launched with the support of UNICEF, the Ministry of Social Protection, The Jurist Project and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system for this court.
As a consequence, the Supreme Court, with tangible support and funding, established the special measures room at the High Court in Georgetown, Demerara.
Later, the idea of having a Sexual Offences Court in all three counties of Guyana came about because of the significant increase of sexual offences cases being heard, and the realization that there was the need to have a resolution of these sensitive matters in a safe atmosphere for its survivors, while ensuring fair but speedy trials.
Jan 20, 2021Kaieteur News – The Guyana Rugby Football Union (GRFU) yesterday met with the Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Charles Ramson, at the National Racquet Centre, Woolford Avenue....
Jan 20, 2021
Jan 20, 2021
Jan 20, 2021
Jan 20, 2021
Jan 19, 2021
Kaieteur News – The joining of the PNC and Walter Rodney’s party, the Working People’s Alliance, under the umbrella... more
Kaieteur News – The second set of criticisms surrounding the gas-to-shore (GTS) project concerns Guyana’s international... more
Freedom of speech is our core value at Kaieteur News. If the letter/e-mail you sent was not published, and you believe that its contents were not libellous, let us know, please contact us by phone or email.
Feel free to send us your comments and/or criticisms.
Contact: 624-6456; 225-8452; 225-8458; 225-8463; 225-8465; 225-8473 or 225-8491.
Or by Email: [email protected] / [email protected]