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GEORGETOWN – Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards says a Children’s Court will be established in the country in the wake of the recent passage of the new Juvenile Offences Bill in the National Assembly.
Justice Cummings-Edwards said the Judiciary is proactive and has implemented measures in preparation for the court’s opening.
The new Juvenile Offences Bill is expected to be laid in the National Assembly shortly and according to the acting Chancellor, “We are not waiting until it is law, we have already started training of our magistrates.”
The two magistrates that will preside over the court have already been identified.
In 2017, four magistrates including the Chief Magistrate, Ann McLennan, attended a study tour in another jurisdiction to observe the operations of their Children’s Court, to learn the best practices and the pitfalls to ensure that when Guyana’s system is efficient and adheres to international standards.
“We are getting assistance from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in this regard and we are going to start that court in a short while,” Justice Cummings-Edwards informed.
She noted that the existing legislation, the Juvenile Offenders Act also makes provision for the establishment of such a court.
These matters are currently heard in camera, where the public is disallowed in the Chambers, but with the new court, there will be dedicated personnel “because our children need more than what obtains at present,” she said.
In relation to domestic violence cases, the acting Chancellor is assuring that these are being handled expeditiously by the magistrates in spite of the many constraints.
She disclosed that in 2017, various agencies were engaged as well as Non-Governmental Organisations, who were given the opportunity to share their thoughts on how these matters effectively handled.
“We have to see the situation from all angles, so we have had courses . . . the magistrates do their best but they are some persons who come to court and say they have made up with the perpetrator and they do not wish to proceed and that is their right.”
Training is ongoing for magistrates since the bulk of the domestic violence cases are dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court, however, those that result in felonious wounding, murder or manslaughter are handled at the High Court.
Further, the acting Chancellor alluded to the fact that having specialised courts to deal with juveniles, sexual offences, domestic violence and other sensitive matters will eliminate re-victimisation and trauma for victims, as well as the speedy disposal of the cases.
She said as an example, in any given session of the November 2017 established Sexual Offences Court there are over 100 cases to be tried coming from the chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
“There is also a component which comes through the Ministry of Social Protection and we are working with them in that regard for a Victim Support Unit and we are working with all stakeholders in relation to the Sexual Offences Court,” she added.
A Trinidad specialist in child abuse and sexual offences cases will be in Guyana, within the next month, to provide psycho-social training to magistrates and judges. (CMC)