Brickdam lockups should be shut down
- visiting British legal expert By Neil Marks
Guyana Chronicle
January 30, 2002

PAST Chairman of the Bar Council of England and Wales, Lord Daniel Brennan, QC, has recommended that the Brickdam lockups in Georgetown be shut down.

His suggestion came yesterday as he wrapped up a visit aimed at providing help to improve the local judicial system.

He has undertaken to meet senior ministers and officials of the British Government in efforts to assist Guyana reform its judicial system.

Brennan, appointed by the Queen in May 2000 as a Life Peer and a member of the House of Lords, is scheduled to leave Guyana today, having met members of the Judiciary, the Police Force, the Prison Service, and ordinary Guyanese since his arrival here over the weekend.

From his observations, he said Guyana needs more judges and the remuneration of the judges should be properly assessed, so that more persons would take up the seat of magistrate or judge.

Lord Brennan who toured the Camp Street prison said it is a "reasonable" facility, but the Brickdam lockups, which he also checked out, should be shut down.

It should be "locked up and closed", he stressed. While the state of the facility might be a question of resources, he said persons detained by the police should have "reasonable provisions."

Briefing reporters yesterday at the residence of British High Commissioner, Mr. Edward Glover, he said consideration for British help will go towards stemming the delays in the judicial system. He said this assistance will likely be in the form of training and visits by UK judges, and possibly by members of the British Bar.

Lord Brennan said he shares the sentiments of Chancellor Desiree Bernard that the delays with criminal and civil cases should not take as long as they currently do. He said the delays are largely due to the fact that judges offer lawyers constant adjournments in cases, thus the lengthy delays.

Chancellor Bernard, who joined Brennan for his news conference, said when judges are "nice" and facilitate an adjournment every time a lawyer asks, that makes for a clogged up system. She said the time has come for judges to grant adjournments only when there is "strong reason" to do so, and not, for example, when a lawyer says his car broke down.

President of the Guyana Bar Asssociation, Ms. Anande Trotman, also at the news conference, said judges might have been granting adjournments because they realise that in Guyana most lawyers do not work with a firm and so they have a tough schedule because they take up cases in the High Court and in the Magistrates Courts.

Lord Brennan said the Guyana Bar fully supports the need for radical changes in the judiciary. He further stated that he is impressed with Chancellor Bernard's and Chief Justice Carl Singh's plan for reform of the judiciary. He said their proposals are "solid, sensible, concrete," and would make for an efficient delivery of justice.

Lord Brennan added that he is pleased about the ongoing investigations into the operations of the Supreme Court Registry and the Magistrates Courts.

In his meeting with Director of Prisons, Mr. Dale Erskine and his tour of the Camp Street prison, Brennan said he found that positive efforts are being made towards using the available resources to achieve an efficient prison system. Areas of "positive efforts" he mentioned are in security and in programmes to reform inmates for re-integration into society when released.

Lord Brennan said he met also Police Commissioner Floyd McDonald. He said the issue of extra-judicial killings was addressed and feels there should be an "efficient" route for investigating such allegations.

The visit of Lord Brennan to Guyana is the third such by UK legal professionals in 18 months in the UK's continued committment to seeing reform of the local judicial system. His visit follows that of a three-member legal team of UK experts during the last quarter of last year.

That team comprised Judge Martin Stephens, QC, of the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey); Ms. Judith Lennard, head of appointments policy at the Lord Chancellor's Department; and Mr. Mark Camely, Director of Criminal Business in the UK Court Service.

They were tasked with, among other things, following up on the findings of a report by UK Judges Esyr Lewis and John Baker.

The latter were contracted by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and had spent April to July 2000 here assisting in drawing up revised rules for the administration of the courts of justice; drafting a training manual; setting out the standards for all legal personnel in the administration of the courts; and assisting as necessary in reducing the backlog of civil cases.

Lord Brennan said that in Guyana people are entitled to a "good" judicial system.

He said Guyana is a strong democracy and should have a strong legal system.