By Renay Sambach
Waterfalls Magazine – Inquests, as legal inquiries conducted by a coroner or magistrate, hold a pivotal place in the Guyanese legal system, aimed at discerning the circumstances and causes surrounding sudden, unexpected, or suspicious deaths. Like in many countries, in Guyana, these proceedings serve a critical role and are governed by specific laws and procedures that ensure transparency, accountability, and justice.
In Guyana, the primary purpose of an inquest is to shed light on the cause and circumstances enveloping an individual’s demise. The investigation seeks to uncover whether the death occurred due to natural causes, accident, suicide, homicide, or remains shrouded in undetermined reasons. It’s important to emphasize that inquests are not criminal trials; they are meticulously crafted fact-finding investigations.
Inquests are typically held in cases of suspicious deaths, deaths in custody or police-related deaths, deaths resulting from accidents or disasters and deaths under unexplained circumstances.
In Guyana, the Coroners Act is the primary legal framework that governs inquests. The Act outlines the powers and responsibilities of coroners, who are typically magistrates or legal professionals, in conducting these inquiries.
The Coroners Act in Guyana is a crucial piece of legislation that outlines the procedures and responsibilities associated with conducting inquests.
Inquests involve a series of proceedings, including summoning witnesses to testify about the circumstances leading to the death, gathering and examining evidence, including medical reports and forensic evidence, determining the cause of death based on the available evidence and providing a verdict or findings, which may include a determination of suicide, homicide, accidental death, or natural causes.
The Act defines the role of a coroner, who is typically a magistrate or a legal professional. Coroners are responsible for conducting inquests into deaths that fall under their jurisdiction.
Coroners have the authority to summon witnesses to testify during the inquest. Witnesses can include individuals who have information related to the circumstances leading to the death.
Also, medical evidence, including post-mortem reports, may be presented during the inquest to assist in determining the cause of death.
In certain cases, a jury may be empanelled to assist the coroner in reaching a verdict. The jury listens to witnesses’ testimonies and helps determine the facts surrounding the death.
At the conclusion of the inquest, the coroner delivers a verdict or findings. This can include a determination of whether the death was due to natural causes, accident, suicide, homicide, or other circumstances. The verdict provides clarity regarding the cause of death.
In some instances, the coroner may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths or improving safety measures.
Inquests are generally conducted in public, allowing the media and interested parties to attend and report on the proceedings. However, certain sensitive information may be restricted from public disclosure.
Notably, the findings of an inquest can influence subsequent legal actions. For example, if an inquest finds evidence of criminal conduct, it may lead to criminal charges being filed against a person or entity.
Inquests play a pivotal role in the Guyanese legal landscape, ensuring transparency, accountability, and justice in cases of unexplained or suspicious deaths. They offer closure to grieving families and hold the potential to instigate improvements in public safety and healthcare practices.
(The following reports are on initial stories published by Kaieteur News on inquest being ordered)
On June 19, 2022, it was reported that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, has advised police that a Coroner’s Inquest be conducted into the death of 12-year-old Kayla Barnabus.
As reported on, Barnabus was the West Demerara Secondary School student who was struck and killed by a police vehicle along the Goed Fortuin Public Road, earlier this month.
It was reported that on June 1, 2022, sometime around 15:45hrs, Barnabus was struck by a police vehicle while attempting to cross the Goed Fortuin Public Road to go home. The police officer involved in accident was placed under open arrest.
On October 18, 2021, it was reported that the DPP ordered an inquest into the death of Roy Boston, the young man who was fatally stabbed at Swan Village, Soesdyke, Linden, back in August of that year.
On August 21, 2021, Boston was killed after he allegedly stabbed three of his drinking partners during a brawl at a rum shop in Swan Village.
It was reported that sometime around 22:15 hours that day; the young man was among his family and friends at a shop when a heated argument turned deadly.
Based on information received from the police, 18-year-old Boston had pulled a knife and dealt one of the men there a stab to his left side waist and another to his left side back.
According to the reports, the deceased began to curse everyone who was imbibing and thereafter, he and the suspect had a scuffle. The reports further revealed that the teen received a stab wound to his left side chest and a cut to his right thumb. The injured teen was rushed to the Diamond Hospital where he was pronounced dead by a doctor.
On August 7, 2021, it was reported that the DPP recommended an inquest into the death of father of three, Anthony Pakamram of Providence, East Bank Demerara. On July 25, last at Lot 3 Old Road, Providence, Pakamram was killed with the very knife, which he had armed himself with while he and his reputed wife were arguing.
According to a police report, the deceased had a history of being violent towards his reputed wife whom he had an 11-year relationship. The day before the tragic incident, it was reported that the couple had a misunderstanding, which led to Pakamram to physically assault the woman.
Kaieteur News reported that on day of the incident, around 15:30hrs, the man had returned to the woman’s residence where another altercation happened, which ended with his death.
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