Feb 13, 2021 News
Kaieteur News – Outlining government’s commitment to ensuring that all citizens have access to, and are protected by the justice system, Senior Minister in the Office of the President with responsibility for Finance, Dr. Ashni Singh, yesterday announced a $4.6 billion budgetary allocation to the sector.
Among the reforms announced by the Minister, were plans to enhance the criminal justice system.
The Minister noted that the previous PPP/C Government had commenced addressing the issue of backlog cases in the High Court.
Dr. Singh, told the National Assembly however that the efforts were not sustained by the former government, resulting in serious implications for the justice system as well as the security sector, post-2015.
As a result, the Minister said that “Over the medium-term, we will re-prioritize the issue of reducing backlog cases, with particular emphasis on cases at the Court of Appeal.”
During his presentation, Dr. Singh underscored the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on services offered via the judiciary.
According to Dr. Singh, the pandemic brought additional pressures on the limited capacity of the justice sector actors.
“…There have been reports that the pandemic has brought more disruptions with families and domestic violence has taken on new proportions,” he said, adding that there will be support for the continued reform of the legislative environment and improve the accountability of the criminal justice system.
The new administration, Dr. Singh emphasized intends to pay more than lip service when it comes to seriously modernizing the justice sector and making government systems more accessible, inclusive and open to all.
Further, he announced that in 2021, an allocation $1.2 billion for the construction and equipping of new courtrooms, as well as living quarters, supporting facilities at locations including Port Kaituma, Mabaruma and Vigilance.
“This will reduce travel time and cost for citizens requiring the services of the courts. In an innovative response, container courtrooms were established to conduct virtual courtroom system at the Lusignan Prison, all in an effort to align with the safety measures instituted in our fight against COVID,” the Minister added, in reading this year’s budget.
In addition, Minister Singh announced initiatives for the improvement at the New Amsterdam, Mazaruni and Camp Street Prisons.
He said that plans are in place for the establishment of more courts along the populated East Bank corridor.
As it relates to the work of the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the Minister said that over $100M will benefit the expansion of the office space to house more prosecutors, who currently are unable to be hired currently.
“An additional 10 legal staff will be hired, which will allow the DPP to address a larger case load over a shorter period of time and address the current backlog. Further, we will procure software to better manage cases through their entire process,” Dr. Singh said, noting that a sum is also earmarked for the maintenance of infrastructure and buildings for Supreme Court and DPP.
In conclusion on his remarks on delivery of justice, the Minister spoke of $325M budget for interventions, including strengthening of probation services and legal aid, this year.
He noted too that this year, the long-awaited Law Reform Commission will be established, charting the way to advance our legislative agenda.
“We have also initiated a programme with the University of Guyana, which will see our law graduates who are unable to attend the Hugh Wooding Law School, being trained to prosecute alongside public and police prosecutors. These candidates will be deployed to court houses throughout Guyana, augmenting the current complement of prosecutors, thereby reducing the time taken to administer related legal services,” added Dr. Singh.
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