Prosecutors code a recipe for fairer, swifter justice

DPI Guyana, Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) today launched the Prosecutors’ Code that sets out standards that all bodies which institute charges will be expected to apply.

The Prosecutors’ Code was launched at the Pegasus Hotel, Kingston Georgetown. Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, United Nations (UN) Representative, Mikiko Tanaka, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Paul Williams, and Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards were in attendance.

Delivering the feature address, Prime Minister Moses Nagamootoo commended the move by the DPP to draft the ‘Prosecutors’ Code’ and stressed the ‘code is not a law’ but rather a guiding principle of how prosecutions should work.

The Prime Minister who is himself an attorney-at-law pointed out that the prevailing expectations of society must be considered in deciding whether or not prosecution is required.  “It is always good to have guiding principles to be able to have before you… when making a decision. You need to know that you can act within the ambit of certainty, not guesswork. The last things you would want to have in your justice system, are the arbitrariness that could be associated with prosecution, that you can be influenced one way or the other to prosecute or bring charges.”

He referred to one section of the code which states that “the job of the prosecutor is not to secure a conviction at all cost, it is to be able to secure justice. Therefore, he said justice will require the prosecutor to be fair to the defence and the accused, to share statements and make disclosures in the interest of justice. “Justice must appear to be done, society requires no less than a system that is fair, and justice that is balanced.”

DPP’s Director, Shalimar Ali-Hack, while providing an overview of the code noted that once the approach is applied, there would be more convictions and courts would be able to move more expeditiously. This, she said, would have a direct impact on both the backlog of cases as well as the overcrowding of the prisons. It should also result in the reduction of the crime rate since there would be a higher conviction rate and this should serve as a deterrent.

“Prosecutors need to appreciate that the focus must be on completing investigations in a timely manner before instituting charges, institute solid cases, which will yield the convictions and encourage persons to plead guilty,” Ali-Hack urged prosecutors. She challenged the Guyana Police Force and other agencies to “follow this recipe and let us improve the whole criminal justice system in Guyana.”

Deputy Commission, Paul Williams acknowledged the importance of the GPF officers to know the codes and apply it during the process of prosecutions. He said that this initiative is critical to the force’s performance.

Other agencies for which the codes will be applied to include the Guyana Energy Agency (GEA), the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA), the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) and Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU).

A similar code has already been implemented in the Caribbean Islands of Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, St. Lucia and Dominica.

Synieka Thorne

Image: Jameel Mohamed


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