SOCU seeks in-house lawyer

The Guyana Police Force has advertised for an in-house lawyer for the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), which was among several recommendations made by consultant Dr. Sam Sittlington last year.

The advertisement, which appeared in the Sunday Stabroek, said that the in-house attorney would be contracted for a 12-month period, “beginning as soon as possible.”

The terms of reference are available upon requests sent to socu@guyanapoliceforce.gy andapplications.socu@yahoo.com. The ad says an expression of interest and CV can also be sent to both addresses.

Stabroek News understands that the unit has already received a number of applications.

On January 9th, during a press conference held at the British High Commissioner’s residence to announce his return to SOCU, Sittlington noted that there were a number of recommendations that he made last year which although approved had not yet been implemented. One of them was to get an in-house lawyer in SOCU “because the five special prosecutors that we have also have private practices and so they are conflicted between two different areas. So ideally, we want one good lawyer in SOCU who can work with the cases from a cradle to crib process. They can finalise the case before it goes to the PLA [Police Legal Advisor] or the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] and try to quicken that actual process of getting a case to court.”

Dr. Sam Sittlington

Sittlington first came to Guyana in 2016 to provide consultancy services to SOCU through assistance from the Government of the United Kingdom. His services are aimed at strengthening the operational and investigative ability of the unit, with a view to tackling money laundering, terrorist financing and other serious crimes.

During his engagement with the media, he said he was concerned that since leaving the country last year, many of the cases initiated by him and the SOCU team were still with either the DPP or the PLA.

He also made reference to the recommendations he had made to ease the burden of law enforcement authorities but which seemed to have fallen on deaf ears.

Days after Sittlington spoke, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan told this newspaper that while it may have appeared that the expert’s recommendations were shelved, his ministry had been looking to have almost all the recommendations implemented.

Stressing that things take time, Ramjattan informed that work on the recommendations started shortly after they were made.

With regards to the in-house attorney, Ramjattan noted that wages and salaries seemed to be the biggest obstacle in attracting someone suitably qualified for the post.

This is because the fees to have a capable attorney stationed at SOCU would see the salary range way above that which the Public Service Salary Rules caters for.

“When you have a special attorney there, you want someone aptly qualified. That person would not want to work for less than US$4,000 to US$5,000 minimum per month and you would have people who will say it is too much for a public servant and all of that. Public Service Rules [are] set and we can’t go in breach of that. A major setback is the quality of the legal minds in the eminent law areas. There is a shortage there too,” he added.

The other recommendations include using cash sniffing dogs at the airports and an engagement with the relevant persons in the judiciary to have a stenographer at the courts so as to relieve the burden on judges and magistrates of taking all the notes during hearings.

Ramjattan said efforts were being made to source cash-sniffing dogs from the United States.

Since its establishment in keeping with the country’s anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism legislation, SOCU has investigated hundreds of matters, a handful of which have made it to court. The unit’s workload was further expanded with the inclusion of the final reports of over two dozen forensic audits, which are now the subjects of criminal probes.

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