The Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) won 36 convictions from the 95 cases that went to trial last year in the Hugh Court.
In a press statement issued on Friday, the DPP’s Chambers provided an in-depth breakdown of what occurred in the Demerara Assizes, the Berbice Assizes, the Essequibo Assizes, the Court of Appeal and the Full Court for January to December, 2013.
It was stated that a total of 109 cases were disposed of in the High Court last year, the bulk of which were murder cases.
Of these cases, 95 received attention in court, while the remaining 14 cases were “nolle prosequi,” in which the DPP decided against prosecuting.
According to the statement, of these 95 cases, 71 were presented from the Demerara Assizes, 14 from the Berbice Assizes and 10 from the Essequibo Assizes. There were 83 murder cases, three manslaughter cases, two rape cases, four carnal knowledge cases, two attempted murder cases and one case for incest.
According to the statement, out of this number there were 36 convictions, 45 acquittals, 10 hung juries, one quashed committal, two aborted trials, and one committal to the National Psychiatric Hospital (NPH). In another case, the accused was found to be fit to plead and was remanded back to prison to await trial and the case is continuing during the January 2014 Assizes.
It was stated that the 14 matters were nolle prosequi for various reasons. Of the 14, one matter was nolle prosequi because the accused died while awaiting his trial, another one because the witnesses could not be found and the other 12 cases were nolle prosequi because the complainants indicated that they no longer wished to proceed with their matters. In one separate murder case, in which six persons were on trial, the DPP had nolle prosequi the matter against the number three accused because there was no evidence against him.
Meanwhile, the statement said that a total of 228 cases were listed to be heard during the Demerara October 2013 Criminal Assizes. During this period Justice Diana Insanally, Justice James Bovell-Drakes and Justice Navindra Singh were the sitting judges.
Seventeen matters were presented during the Assizes, of which seven were completed by Justice Insanally and four matters by Justice Bovell-Drakes. The statement said that six matters were presented before Justice Singh but five matters were completed. The sixth matter, a murder case, is still continuing.
The seven trials completed by Justice Insanally were murder cases. In the first trial, the accused was sentenced to six months at the Sophia Juvenile Holding Centre after the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. This sentence was appealed by the DPP.
In the second matter, in which three accused were on trial for murder, Justice Insanally ordered that a new Preliminary Inquiry (PI) be done within four months after she had ruled on the Preliminary Points and quashed the indictment.
The release added that in the other five murder trials, one accused was found guilty by the jury and sentenced to death. In three other separate cases, the accused pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter; one accused was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment, another accused was sentenced to 10 years in jail and a third one was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment. In the fifth case, the accused was acquitted after the jury returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty.
Four murder trials were completed by Justice Bovell-Drakes. In two of these trials, the judge up held no-case submissions made by the defence and directed the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty. The state has appealed one of these decisions. The accused in the other two cases were acquitted after the jury returned unanimous verdicts of not guilty.
According to the DPP’s chambers, during this time Justice Singh commenced six matters. Five of his cases were for the offence of murder and one for the offence of manslaughter. Two accused were found guilty of murder by the jury, one was sentenced to 76 years imprisonment while the other was sentenced to 71 years imprisonment. In a third murder case, the accused was sentenced to 12 years imprisonment after he changed his plea to guilty of the lesser offence of manslaughter. The accused in another case, who was charged with two counts of murder, was remanded back to prison to face a retrial after the jury returned with an even split on the first count and was 4 guilty to 8 not guilty on the second count of murder. The accused in the manslaughter case was acquitted after Justice Singh upheld a no-case submission and directed the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty.
Berbice and Essequibo
The Berbice Criminal Assizes commenced on October 15th before Justice Dawn Gregory. Seven matters for the offence of Murder were completed, according to the statement. In five of these trials, the accused pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter. One accused was sentenced to 20 years; a second accused received a 12-year prison sentence while a third accused was sentenced to 17 years imprisonment. In a fourth murder case, the accused was sentenced to 13 years, while the accused in the fifth murder trial was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment. The accused in one matter was sentenced to 20 years after the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. The seventh trial before Justice Gregory was aborted after two defence counsel had recused themselves from the case.
Meanwhile, the Essequibo May 2013 Criminal Assizes, which commenced on May 21, started with a high profile murder trial before Justice Franklin Holder. The three accused in this case were members of the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard, who had robbed the deceased, murdered him and dumped his body overboard. They were found guilty and sentenced to be hanged.
Justice Holder then proceeded on leave since he had continued sitting from the October 2012 Criminal Session and had completed five trials during that time for the offences of murder, attempted murder, wounding with intent and rape. One murder accused was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment after he changed his plea to guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter. In another matter, the accused was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment after the jury found him guilty of wounding with intent. In two separate murder trials, the accused were acquitted after the trial judge upheld no case submissions and directed the jury to return a formal verdict of not guilty. The DPP decided against prosecution in one rape matter because the complainant indicated that she did not wish to proceed with the matter.
The statement said that Justice William Ramlal continued the May Assizes from June to September followed by Justice Sandra Kurtzious who sat from October to December 6, 2013. Twenty (20) cases were listed to be heard for the May 2013 Criminal Assizes and of these cases six were completed. Three of these matters were for murder, one for attempted murder and two for the offence of carnal knowledge of a girl under 15 years.
Justice Ramlal completed three matters. Two matters were for the offence of murder. One accused was sentenced to five years imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter and the accused in the other matter was acquitted after the jury returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty. The accused in the third case for the offence of attempting to commit murder was discharged by the trial judge after the victim informed the court that he was compensated by the accused for his medical expenses.
Justice Sandra Kurtzious completed two matters for the offence of carnal knowledge of a girl under 15 years. One accused was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after the jury returned a unanimous verdict of guilty. The accused in the other trial was acquitted after the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.
During 2013, the DPP’s chambers appeared in 15 matters in the Court of Appeal. There was one appeal against the guilty verdict for the offence of murder. The appeal was allowed and the offence of murder was reduced to manslaughter and the accused sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. In a second matter for the application for bail for the offence of attempted murder, the application was refused. There were three matters of appeal for the offence of causing death by dangerous driving. In one matter, the appeal was granted, but the court found that there was sufficient evidence to establish the offence of dangerous driving. In the second appeal, the conviction for causing death by dangerous driving was confirmed and the accused sentenced to three years imprisonment. The appellant in the third appeal against the conviction for causing death by dangerous driving withdrew his application.
There were two appeals by the state, the release said, while adding that in one matter there was an application by the state to amend the appeal from a verdict of acquittal from a High Court murder trial and this was granted. In the other matter, where the state appealed against an order made by a single judge in chambers in the Court of Appeal to prevent a magistrate from carrying out the directions of the DPP for a PI to be reopened, the appeal was allowed.
The other eight matters were in relation to summary trials for indictable offences. Five of these matters were applications for extension of time within which to file appeals because the applicants failed to file the notice of appeal within the statutory period. In a sixth matter, an application was granted for the appellant to lodge security. Another application was granted for the petitioner to lodge his passport within 48 hours of his return to the country. One application to appeal a matter for the offence of Possession of narcotics for the purpose of trafficking was refused.
In the Full Court, 12 matters were heard during 2013 before Chief Justice Ian Chang sitting either with Justice William Ramlal, Justice Rishi Persaud, Justice James Bovell-Drakes, Justice Navindra Singh and Justice Brassington Reynolds. In five 5 of these cases, the appeals were dismissed. In four other cases, the appeals were allowed. One applicant was granted leave to lodge security for cost within seven days while one other application for extension of time was granted. One appeal was abandoned since the prisoner had served his sentenced
The statement said that the January 2014 Assizes for Demerara will be opened on Wednesday the 15th January, 2014. There are 233 cases listed to be heard during the Session before Justice Singh, Justice Ramlal and Justice Holder.
The February Assizes for Berbice will be opened on the 4th February, 2014 before Justice Insanally who is presently sitting as the October 2013 Session continues while the February Essequibo Assizes is expected to commence on the 18th February, 2014 before Justice Nareshwar Harnanan, who is presently sitting as the October 2013 Session continues.