Demerara Criminal Assizes opens

307 criminal cases to be heard

A customary parade was held at the Supreme Court of Judicature also known as the High Court, on Tuesday morning to launch the final opening of the Demerara Criminal Assizes for 2022.

The parade took the usual format with the justice sector partners leading the procession and officers of the Guyana Police Force.

Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George

Chief Justice (ag), Roxane George, speaking during an interview, stated that the session marks the changeover or reassignment of judges to the three counties.

Of the 11 judges, two judges are in Berbice who will preside over the criminal trials, while the other will preside over the civil cases.

The judge assigned in Essequibo will preside over criminal and civil cases. The agenda will comprise hearing a total of 307 cases for Demerara, which includes 136 sexual offence cases.

Berbice has a total of 116 cases listed for the criminal session.  Meanwhile, Essequibo has about 79 matters listed.

For civil cases, Justice George indicated that 2,246 cases have been filed in all three of the counties to date.

Justice George explained,The judges are assigned to the various counties and divisions of the high court and they would preside over these matters as assigned. The civil procedure rules provide the mechanisms or the system that is employed for the assignment of cases for the judges.

“So, whilst persons speak of backlog, there will be no backlog of cases in the registry because every matter must be assigned to a judge under the rules, on the civil side.

The Chief Justice noted that each judge presiding over the criminal cases is provided with a list. This is dependent on the chambers of the Department of Public Prosecution (DPP) to present those indictments.

Justice George stated, Once, they are ready with their cases, they would indicate to their trial judge and they would call their witnesses and the case would be dealt with accordingly.”

She highlighted that in the criminal cases which commenced on Tuesday, the jurors were in the panelling session.

“The jury panel for the various courts come on different days. So, we have two panels now because two judges really will be sitting; Justice Kissoon will be in sitting in the sexual offences court. Justice Morris-Ramlall will be in the general criminal court. So, a jury would have been in the panel for a matter, once the DPP chambers were ready with a case to present the indictment.”

Justice George emphasised that, technically, the court has no control over this, “but once they’re ready with a case, they will present the indictment and the case is in panelled and the evidence is led.”

Importantly, at the High Court level where there are land cases, 205 cases have been filed for Demerara so far for this year.

Some 275 cases have been filed for Berbice to date.

The parade for the final opening of the criminal assizes was led by Justice Brassington Reynolds.

The last parade was held back in April during law week.