The Sexual Offences Court in Guyana has been making significant headway in bringing perpetrators to justice; something that, in the past, took a very long time to transpire.
Since its inception in November 2017, the court has heard 44 cases, and seen 31 convictions with 13 acquittals. Sentences for those convictions ranged from nine years to life.
Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, OR, CCH recently provided the statistics. She said since the establishment of the specialised court, the judiciary has seen a “sea-change” in the management, adjudication and prosecution of sexual offence matters.
The first sexual offences court was launched in 2017 at the Supreme Court in Georgetown. In May of this year, a similar court was launched in the Berbice county and more recently, on Monday last, another facility was established in the county of Essequibo.
Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards
According to Justice Cummings-Edwards, the court has brought with it a swifter system that helps both victims and defendants.
“We are happy that because of the Sexual Offence Court, victims and defendants no longer have to wait to know their fate. Victims do not have to give their evidence twice since we have what is called paper committal in the magistrates court, a speedier system where the magistrate makes the committal on the bases of the statement,” the chancellor said.
She explained that the Sexual Offences Act passed in 2010 provides for a special court environment to try cases under the Act. The average duration of the trials stands at five days.
“This reduces the time spent in court, the time for the processing and adjudication of a case involving sexual offences,” Justice Cummings-Edwards relayed.
The offences for which trials were conducted include rape, rape of a child under 16, sexual activity with a child by a family member and carnal knowledge. The ages of the victims range from 3 to 77 years old.
The specialised court has seen six judges presiding. These included Justice Simone Morris- Ramlall, Justice Jo Ann Barlow, Justice Priya Sewnarine- Beharry, Justice Brassington Reynolds, Justice Navindra Sing and Justice Gino Persaud.
Justice Persaud will preside over the Essequibo October Assizes.