Supreme Court of Judicature (Appeal) Amendment Act will correct deficiencies in the legal system with respect to appeals

Dear Editor,
Before I comment on the passage of the amendment to the appeal laws I wish to state that I am very disappointed that the government owned Guyana Chronicle and the Stabroek News on line did not report the death of this great Guyanese who was not only one of the best judges the country has seen but also contributed significantly to the Faculty of Law at UG and represented the country in both cricket and football, as well as serving as referee and umpire at his retirement. Professor Aubrey Bishop was also a leading churchman in the Methodist church, not only in Guyana, but in the region. He was a humble and kind person. He assisted me as a young lawyer when I started at the law firm of Clarke and Martin. My condolences go out to his widow and children.

The Supreme Court of Judicature (Appeal) Amendment Act amending the Court of Appeal Act and the High Court Act which was passed a few days ago will certainly correct deficiencies in the legal system in relation to appeals, and aggrieved persons can appeal decisions from judges in certain cases. In piloting the Bill Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall cited two cases in which the law blocked appeals. He referred to the Henry Greene rape matter and the Barry Dataram extradition case, in which the decisions by the trial judge could not be appealed because of the outdated colonial laws.

This is one of the few pieces of legislation passed unanimously. Basil Williams, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs said that legislation in this regard is about 20 years late, but in my view it should have been passed shortly after the country removed the Union Jack and replaced it with the Golden Arrow-head. A few months ago I wrote a piece stating that Guyana was shortchanged when it only had one appellate court from 1970 when the Republic abolished appeals to the Privy Council, and it was only when the Caribbean Court of Justice was established in April 2007 Guyanese were at liberty to have two appeals. Prior to that the only appeal was to the Guyana Court of Appeal, and this means that litigants only had  recourse to one appeal in 35 long years.

Mr Williams also said that one of the laws which needed to be reviewed was the state’s ability to challenge the findings of a properly constituted jury.

The government should also consider trying certain types of criminal cases, i.e. murder and attempted murder, before a judge without a jury, as in the case of Belize. That Central American country which is a member of Caricom passed ‘trial by judge’ legislation a little over a year ago, and Guyanese born Chief Justice Kenneth Benjamin sat in the first criminal trial by a single judge.
Yours faithfully,
Oscar Ramjeet
Florida

Editor’s note
Stabroek News reported on the passing of former Chancellor of the Judi-ciary Aubrey Bishop in both our online and print editions on February 8, 2013.

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