State lawyers, magistrates' salaries hiked
Luncheon slams corrupt practices in court system
Stabroek News
February 5, 2002

Cabinet has approved increases in the starting salaries for lawyers in the Chambers of the Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions ranging between 33 per cent and 37.5 per cent retroactive to July 1, 2001. The salaries of the magistrates have also been increased with effect from December 1, 2001.

Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon, announced the increases at a post Cabinet briefing yesterday at the Office of the President. He said that the increases were recommended by a special committee set up to review the pay and conditions of the legal officers and were approved by the Cabinet at its meeting on Thursday.

With the increases, the starting salary for a state counsel is now $110,330 per month. The starting salary for all other posts above that of state counsel has been increased by $25,000 a month retroactive to July 1, 2001 as well.

The starting salary for magistrates is now $204,050 per month with the starting salary for senior magistrates increased to $226,723, principal magistrates, $262,208 and chief magistrate, $277,188 per month.

Luncheon said that in approving the increases, the Cabinet hoped that it would bring to an end the prolonged issue of improvement in the pay and conditions of the legal officers employed in the public service.

He said too that Cabinet was "not unmindful of the view that the poor work ethic and the corrupt practices uncovered in the magistracy were probably related to the issue of poor remuneration."

Pressed to explain the latter statement on whether magistrates were involved in corruption, Luncheon said, "I have absolutely no doubt that they are involved." But he refused to disclose the names of the magistrates allegedly implicated in corrupt practices or to say whether these cases had been referred to the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) for its attention.

"The poor work ethic and the corrupt practices uncovered have been the subject of public information for quite some time. I may perhaps make reference to what we have seen and what is being further investigated now with the alarming loss of state revenue arising from unsavoury financial practices in the collection of fines, bail and such like."

He said that the most celebrated instance of corrupt practices involved "the Georgetown Magisterial District where, unbelievably, literally millions of dollars of revenue mysteriously disappeared; cannot be accounted for and very occasionally revealed to have been swindled [from] or have been stolen by the lesser minions of the [court system]."

He said that the government had joined a number of commentators of note who have pronounced on corrupt practices in the justice administration not only in the magistracy but also even in the judiciary.

Recalling President Bharrat Jagdeo's New Year's message in which he inveighed against these wrong doings, Luncheon said the government wanted to attract a substantial body of information and it was unfortunate that "our resort to the major opposition party was most unrewarding in that they had insisted that the type of investigation that we sought ought to be discharged by other agencies and they declined to be associated with such activity."

Referring to the investigations into the registries, he said that the government was, however, pressing ahead with its investigations to ascertain the nature and those responsible for these corrupt practices and whatever information was gleaned would then be provided to the JSC for it to take the necessary action.

"We have identified the specific methodology to be used ... targeting the government's major loss of revenue and identifying specifically the areas of granting bail and collecting fines."