Kaieteur News – The Demerara June Criminal Assizes for 2023, a significant event in Guyana’s legal calendar, recently concluded after several weeks of intense legal proceedings.
Commencing on June 6th, this year’s assizes witnessed the presiding of Justice Navindra Singh, Madam Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry, Justice Sandil Kissoon, Madam Justice Jo-Ann Barlow, and Madam Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall. According to information from the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), a staggering total of 266 cases were scheduled to be heard, with a diverse range of charges. The State managed to dispose of 35 matters, and the outcomes offer a glimpse into the complex dynamics of the Guyanese judicial system.
High Stakes Murder Cases and Sexual Offences
Out of the 35 cases resolved, 28 were presented in the High Court. Among these, 16 pertained to the grave offence of murder, 10 involved sexual offences, and 2 were related to the attempted murder. The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC, decided to nolle prosequi, or discontinue, prosecution in 8 cases.
The verdicts were as follows:
– 6 convictions.
– 13 guilty pleas.
– 6 not guilty verdicts by jury.
– 5 formal verdicts of not guilty.
– 2 cases ended with hung juries.
In total, 33 accused individuals were involved in these cases.
Sexual Offences Court
Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions (ADPP) Tiffiny Lyken, Senior State Counsel Nafeeza Baig, and State Counsel Praneeta Seeraj prosecuted 5 cases in the Sexual Offences Court before Justice Navindra Singh. In these trials, 3 accused individuals were found guilty by a jury. Two of them received life imprisonment, while the other was sentenced to 2 years in prison.
In 2 other sexual offence cases, one ended with an acquittal by jury verdict, while the trial judge upheld a “no case” submission, directing the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty.
Murder Cases Before Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry
State Counsel Caressa Henry, Latiffa Elliot, Abiola Lowe, and Mikel Puran handled 5 murder cases before Madam Justice Priya Sewnarine-Beharry. In 4 of these cases, the accused pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter, with sentences ranging from 6 to 15 years in prison. One case ended with an acquittal by jury verdict.
Justice Navindra Singh’s Cases
State Counsel Caressa Henry, Marisa Edwards, Paneeta Persaud, and Mikel Puran prosecuted 4 murder cases before Justice Navindra Singh. In 3 of these cases, the accused pleaded guilty to manslaughter, receiving sentences between 6 and 10 years. In another case, the judge upheld a “no case” submission, leading to a formal verdict of not guilty.
Justice Sandil Kissoon’s Verdicts
Justice Sandil Kissoon oversaw 2 cases, one involving murder and the other an attempt to commit murder and wounding with intent. The accused in the murder case received a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 30 years, while the accused in the second case pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 16 years and 6 months in prison.
Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall’s Cases
Madam Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall presided over 7 matters, including 6 murder cases and one for the attempt to commit murder with the alternative count of felonious wounding. In one murder case, the accused pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing. In 2 others, the accused pleaded guilty to manslaughter and are awaiting their sentences. One case ended with the acquittal of all accused, while another awaits a new trial after the jury failed to reach a verdict. In the attempted murder case, the accused was found guilty of felonious wounding and sentenced to 8 years in prison, with an order to undergo anger management.
Sexual Offences Cases Before Madam Justice Jo-Ann Barlow
State Counsel Lattifa Elliot, Simran Gajraj, Rbina Christmas, and Delon Fraser presented 5 sexual offenses cases before Madam Justice Jo-Ann Barlow. In 4 of these cases, the accused were acquitted by jury verdicts of not guilty. In the fifth case, one accused was found guilty and awaits sentencing, while the co-accused awaits a new trial after a hung jury.
Additionally, the Director of Public Prosecutions discontinued 6 sexual offenses cases and 2 cases for attempted murder due to complainants’ written statements indicating their reluctance to proceed with prosecution. The Demerara June Assizes for 2023 have concluded, leaving behind a complex mosaic of legal outcomes that reflect the intricacies of Guyana’s justice system. The cases ranged from high-stakes murder trials to sensitive sexual offenses, showcasing the diverse challenges faced by the judiciary in administering justice.
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