Nov 09, 2022 News
Kaieteur News – The National Assembly on Monday passed two pieces of legislation critical to the administration of justice in Guyana. The Restorative Justice Bill 2022 and the Bail Bill were both passed at Monday’s sitting of the National Assembly in the absence of members of the A Partnership For National Unity +Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Party.
Restorative justice is an approach to problem solving that, in its various forms, involves the victim, the offender, and the community. Restorative justice programmes are based on the fundamental principle that, criminal behaviour not only violates the law, but also injures victims and the community.
Its main objective is to repair the harm caused by the offence. Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC informed the National Assembly that the new concept is not a substitute for imprisonment, but is rather aimed at reducing prison terms based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
“We now have this new concept of restorative justice as part of our statutory landscape. As I said, it is a new concept, it is evolving, it is exciting, and it will allow our courts to make orders outside of the conventional penal nature of orders that it is now circumscribe to make, and explore a whole host of potential and opportunities to address in a real way, in a practical and pragmatic way- the circumstances that may have led to criminal conduct and also for that conduct to be rehabilitated for compensation to be paid and for society to also benefit,” he said.
The passage of the Legislation allows for the subject Minister to appoint a Director of Restorative Justice to manage and organise the restorative justice programmes and supervise persons in the programme. It is important to note that the restorative justice concept is not open to all criminal offenders but a few outlined in the act.
These include, any offence under Section 160; (b) simple larceny under Section 164, other than larceny of agricultural products or livestock; (c) larceny from the person under Section 182; (d) larceny by a tenant or lodger under Section 183; (e) larceny by a clerk or servant under Section 184; (f) larceny in a dwelling house under Section 187; (g) embezzlement by a clerk or servant under Section 190; and (h) fraudulent conversion of property entrusted for sale under Section 198. Offences such as murder, terrorism, treason and other offences outlined in the Bill are exempted from restorative justice.
The Attorney General also noted that the Bill will ease the overcrowding in the country’s prisons. The Bill was supported by Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn who said the prison population has increased by 40 percent.
“The overall question of restorative justice is critically important, first as a concept at the levels of schools as I said and particularly having persons know that there is a formal way of resolving conflict, of getting victims support and compensation too,” Benn said.
The Restorative Justice Bill is part of Government’s commitment to strengthen the justice system and reducing the prison population through alternative sentencing.
Meanwhile, the long awaited Bail Bill was also passed in the National Assembly. This Bill allows for regulating the granting of bail across the country.
Nandlall said the Bill has been anticipated for a long time since other countries within the Region already have the legislation in place.
“Some feel that bail is too rigidly granted, and others argue that it is too capriciously granted, and the granting of bail is not consistent. Most countries in the world have moved in the direction of putting a statutory code in place to govern the grant of bail,” he explained.
The Attorney General said while bail is usually determined by the tribunal before which a charge is pending, the new law will allow police officers to grant bail as well, in the absence of a warrant for arrest.
The Bill addresses primarily a Defendant’s right to bail, amendments to the conditions of bail, bail procedures and appeals, and the right of a court of law to refuse bail under special circumstances.
It also reduces confinement time from the current 72 to just 24 hours, while allowing for necessary extensions of time under reasonable suspicion that a suspect has committed a crime.
The Attorney General assured that the Bill is a consensual product of both the legal fraternity, including the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the practicing Bar, and the Judiciary to aid stakeholders in administering a fine and enforcing this law.
The extensive Bail Bill will provide bail reform in Guyana, which is a key component in remedying the overcrowding of prisons, as well as the unnecessary imprisonment of persons who have not been found guilty by a court of law.
Further, the Bill provides for Courts to hear and determine bail applications without undue delay, and also sets out requirements for the legal system to fulfill in its granting or revoking of bail, and outlines clear circumstances under which bail may be refused.
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