Attorney General Charles Ramson said an unaccountable judiciary with a poor work ethic is a critical factor plaguing the criminal justice system in the country, and that a few simple interventions can be made to start fixing the system.
Ramson issued a press statement on Friday last saying records are available which “illustrate the sad state of the work ethics of some judges”. He cited indicators such as the hours spent daily on the bench hearing cases, the number of cases completed within a given period, the time taken to give written decisions and also the backlog of cases.
He said that earlier the administration’s impatience led to unsuccessful attempts to make judges accountable to Parliament, but some success was achieved by the enactment of legislation governing time limits for judicial decisions. Ramson said the legislation was boycotted by some members of the judiciary.
Pointing to interventions which he said are needed to fix the system, Ramson said there should be monitoring and public disclosure of judge’s performances; a more proactive Judicial Service Commission (JSC) in making judges accountable and closer collaboration between the Guyana Police Force and the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions, particularly with regard to ensuring witnesses are available during the trials.
On Thursday last, Justice Roxane George stated that the system is accountable to prisoners awaiting High Court trials and she noted that the time has come to fix what is broken in the system because citizens cannot continue to languish in prison for years. She said the lack of state resources to comprehensively reform the system is noted, but emphasized that citizens are guaranteed certain fundamental rights under the Consti-tution, including the right to a fair trial within a reasonable time. She said too that stakeholders need to work together and “fix the system” because prisoners are waiting too long for trials.
Prison records released on Thursday disclosed that 132 inmates of the Georgetown Prison have been committed to stand trial in the High Court; some were incarcerated since 2003.
Of that figure the breakdown lists 98 for murder including seven females; four for attempted murder; four for manslaughter; 21 for carnal knowledge; two for incest; one for armed robbery; one for rape and one for arson.