14 virtual Courtrooms launched at Lusignan Prison

– to provide speedier trials for inmates

Fourteen ‘virtual Courtrooms’ were today opened at the Lusignan Prison, East Coast Demerara, to provide speedier trials for inmates, while safeguarding their health during COVID-19.

The new Virtual Courtrooms at Lusignan Prison

During the launch at the Lusignan Prison Officers’ Sport Club Tarmac, Chancellor of the Judiciary (Ag) Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards said the “container Courtrooms” also ensure that Article 144 of the Constitution of Guyana is upheld.

“Today’s event will put us at a higher level, a level in which we can make a difference, a level in which we can make an impact in the criminal justice system. The roll-out out of the virtual courtrooms will ensure that justice is not only done, but justice manifestly appears to be done. It will show too that we have risen to the challenges of the pandemic.”

Justice Cummings-Edwards said before the project was initiated, representatives from the Police, the Guyana Prison Service, the Director of Public Prosecutions and members of the Judiciary, formed a criminal task force to devise a strategy to deal with the delay in criminal hearings caused by the pandemic. The virtual courtroom is one of the strategies they devised.

The Chancellor said the modernised courtrooms demonstrate hope in difficult times and will help to ease the burden on the State. She also noted that it would reduce the transportation and security cost of having to transport inmates to and from the courts.

Chief Justice (Ag), Madam Roxane George (left) and Chancellor of the Judiciary (Ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards cut the ribbon to open the new Courtrooms at the Lusignan Prison

Meanwhile, Chief Justice (Ag.) Roxane George said apart from the 14 virtual courtrooms established today, there are plans to open another four at the Camp Street location, eight at New Amsterdam, three at the Mazaruni Prison and four at the Timehri Prison.

“The Courts will benefit the attendance of prisoners in civil and family court matters ensuring their access to justice where they are parties. They demonstrate the commitment to upholding the rule of law and to respect the human rights of prisoners, victims and their families, who have a vesting interest in the timely hearing of criminal cases.”

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Hon. Mohabir Anil Nandlall said the “historic and unique initiative” is another adjunct to Government’s technological drive.

“The Executive and the Judiciary have joined hands together in creating a completely new addition to the criminal justice system. This was done without any compromise to the hallowed constitutional doctrine of separation of powers which binds both institutions,” AG Nandlall said.

Additionally, Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Robeson Benn said the new annexes will make up for the time lost. He added that a more rehabilitative approach should be taken towards those imprisoned.

“And that could only be made possible when we undertake initiatives like these in terms of these virtual court system, and also in the programmes that we are advancing now, in respect of building new prisons here at Lusignan, which we have just initiated in terms of the foundation works. We intend to build over the next year or so, much better physical circumstances to accommodate over 800 prisoners.”

The Courtrooms were constructed by Platinum Sales and Services.