Prisoners to make virtual court appearances

The Government of Guyana, the Judiciary, the Guyana Police Force
and the Guyana Prisons Service are collaborating in a unique
partnership to enhance the speedy hearings, trials and disposal of
cases in the criminal justice system, in the face of the COVID-19
pandemic, which have placed severe restraint on the movement and
gathering of persons in every endeavour.

Today, the team met at the Umana Yana and made a series of
important decisions. The Government team is led by Attorney
General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Mohabir Anil Nandlall, and
includes Minister Robeson Benn and a number of technical
personnel from the National Data Management Authority.
Representing the Judiciary are Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George-
Wiltshire
, Justice Naresh Harnanan and Justice Brassington
Reynolds
. Assistant Commissioner of Police, Clifton Hickens, led a
team from the Guyana Police Force and the Director of Prisons,
Gladwin Samuels, and his staff were present on behalf of the
Guyana Prisons Service.

The principal objective of the engagement is to establish the
required physical and technical infrastructure for criminal litigation
to take place on virtual platforms. In this regard, a decision was
made to install retrofitted containers at prison locations situated at
Camp Street, Georgetown; Lusignan, East Coast Demerara; New
Amsterdam and Mazaruni. These containers will be air-conditioned
and equipped with the necessary technical apparatus that will
provide a link to the prisoners and the various Court house. Once
implemented, this measure will obviate the need for prisoners to be
transported physically out of the prisons and taken to the various
Courts for their cases.

Another aspect of this project is to similarly equip identified Police
Stations across the country, where defendants will appear at first
hearings for the charges to be read to them and for them to enter
their plea and to make any other relevant Applications.

Caribbean jurisdictions are already moving in this direction with
Trinidad and Tobago being the most advanced. The team will use
Trinidad and Tobago as the model to design Guyana’s system.

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