Chancellor calls for zero tolerance of traffic offenders
Guyana Chronicle
January 24, 2002

CHANCELLOR of the Judiciary, Justice Desiree Bernard has acknowledged that the public is looking to the Courts to ensure that traffic violations are dealt with condignly when perpetrators are found guilty.

Noting that, every day, one reads, in the Press, letters expressing concern about the leniency of sentences which they perceive to be out of all proportion to the severity of the offence, she assured that the issue has not escaped the attention of the Judiciary.

It is being investigated, with a view to taking whatever action is appropriate in the circumstances, she said at a sitting of the Full Court to pay tribute, especially to dead Justice of Appeal Charles Fung-A-Fat and High Court Judge Akbar Khan.

Chancellor Bernard noted that, as a judge, Justice Khan brooked no frivolous applications for adjournments or leave to defend claims which he thought were designed to stall for time.

“Our sitting judges may do well to adopt his approach,” she said, reflecting on the period when the late judge was on the Bench.

Presiding at the Court of Appeal building in Kingston, Georgetown, Justice Barnard recalled that Justice Fung-A-Fat was never seen angry and would diffuse a situation of tension with a joke and a smile while Justice Khan, nicknamed ‘The Angry God’, did not suffer fools gladly.

Khan died on Thursday, December 20, 2001 and Fung-A-Fat two weeks later, they having served simultaneously on the High Court Bench at one time in the 1970s.

“With their passing, together with the demise, nearly two years ago, of former Chief Justice Dhan Jhappan and former Justice of Appeal Ronald Luckhoo, an era has come to an end,” Chancellor Bernard remarked, noting that, only former Chief Justice Sir Harold Bollers of that genre, is still alive.

Wishing Bollers continued good health, Justice Bernard said their regime was in “the golden years when the Judiciary was held in high esteem and treated with respect befitting the office.”

“We have to work assiduously to restore it (the Judiciary) to its former glory,” she said.

Justice Bernard said she had the good fortune to have practised before both Justices Khan and Fung-A-Fat, whose styles of dispensing justice stood out in stark contrast.

“Justice Khan never suffered fools gladly and his no nonsense manner earned him the sobriquet of ‘The Angry God’ as you have heard.

“I am informed that, as a magistrate, he presided over the Traffic Court and earned a reputation for zero tolerance with offenders found guilty of breaching the laws. This same intolerance is needed today with the alarmingly high incidence of road fatalities,” the Chancellor declared.

She said Fung-A-Fat will be remembered for his affable manner and spontaneous wit, which, in no small measure, helped to ease tensions that sometimes arose in courtrooms.

“He possessed an easy grace and charming personality and, as far as I can ascertain, made no enemies nor harboured any grudges.”

Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Roxanne George, who is President of Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL), said Justice Khan can be said to have been a multi-disciplined person for, besides being an horologist, he was also an excellent jeweller before turning to the profession of law, becoming a barrister in June 1949 and being admitted to practice less than a month after.

Following a successful private practice, spanning five years, he was appointed a magistrate in January 1955 and rose to the position of Senior Magistrate, then the highest post in the Magistracy, prior to being elevated to the Supreme Court in 1961 and acting as a Justice of Appeal in 1973.

Justice Khan retired from the Bench in 1976 and, thereafter, he and his family emigrated to England, where he actively pursued other avenues in the law, becoming a lecturer and later an editor of the Estates Gazette Law Reports and the monthly periodical, Commercial Leases.

George said, although Justice Fung-A-Fat was not born in the ‘Ancient County of Berbice’, he was, undoubtedly, one of the distinguished lawyers who practised there.

He had a long career in private practice, some 17 years, before he was appointed a High Court Judge in 1966 and, subsequently, elevated to the appellate Bench in 1980.

Prior to the last appointment, Fung-A-Fat was a Councillor and Mayor of New Amsterdam.

He had a reputation for being a very pragmatic judge and brought to the Bench his many years of experience as a practising lawyer.

After retiring from the Judiciary in 1988, Mr. Fung-A-Fat took on the challenging task of Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, as he continued his commitment to being of service to the public, George said.

He was one of the original subscribers to West Indian Law Reports, an indication of his recognition of the need for a Caribbean jurisprudence.

Speaking on behalf of the Attorney General and law officers of the State, Fung-A-Fat’s son, Mr. John Fung-A-Fat said, contrary to popular belief, his father was born at Lusignan, East Coast Demerara.

He fulfilled God’s will and purpose for his existence on Earth and lived exactly how he wanted before being called away on the morning of Saturday, December 29, at the ripe age of 81, the son said.

Others who spoke at the session included, Ms Priya Seenaraine, also of the Attorney General’s Chambers, Mr. Vidyanand Persaud, Ms Sheila Chapman and Senior Counsel Charles Ramson.

All that they said would be conveyed to the sorrowing relatives, Chancellor Bernard directed.