Gov’t tables arbitration, plea bargaining bills

The government continues to recognise the importance of comprehensive legislation to regulate and facilitate efficient criminal proceedings. In a further demonstration of this commitment, the modern Arbitration Bill and the Criminal Procedure (Plea Discussion, Plea Agreement, Plea Assistance Agreement) Bill of 2023 were on Monday laid in the National Assembly.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC, presented the bills for their first readings at the 69th sitting.

Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, SC

Set to establish Guyana as a hub for commercial arbitration, as well as facilitate job creation and revenue generation, the Arbitration Bill provides guidelines for domestic and international arbitration.

Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution that sees the parties involved in a dispute agreeing to have the case heard by one or more arbitrators, entrusted with making a legally binding decision on the matter.

Earlier this year, the arbitration unit was established to facilitate the drafting of the bill as well as capacity building for its implementation.

The attorney general said that the bill has undergone extensive consultation with international law firms and includes key provisions of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Arbitration, which has been approved by the CARICOM Secretariat for implementation by member states in the region.

Additionally, the Improved Access to Justice in the Caribbean Project (IMPACT Justice), a regional justice sector reform project, has conducted a series of training workshops on arbitration in Guyana, to ensure its proper implementation.

Meanwhile, the Criminal Procedure Bill was also tabled and will allow for plea agreements to be made between defendants and state prosecutors prior to a guilty verdict. 

It seeks to repeal the Criminal Procedure (Plea Bargaining and Plea Agreement) Act Cap 10:09 and is expected to reduce the heavy backlog of cases.  

The bill aims to balance expedited handling of criminal proceedings, the protection of an individual’s rights, and ensuring that offenders are sentenced in accordance with the law.

These pieces of legislation are aligned with the government’s vision of building a robust and modern legislative framework, consistent with the changing times.