Luncheon urges legal community to expedite court matters Stabroek News
June 14, 2002

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Chief Justice Carl Singh and the magistracy have been sensitised about the need to deal expeditiously with court hearings to cut down on the volume of remand prisoners at the Georgetown prison.

"They have to expedite the criminal matters faster to make the prison population more reflective of convicted criminals," Cabinet Secretary, Dr Roger Luncheon, told reporters at his weekly press conference on Wednesday.

Consideration is being given to the distribution of some prisoners from the Georgetown prison to other penitentiaries in the country, Luncheon disclosed.

Alluding to the report of the board of enquiry into the escape of five prisoners from the Georgetown prison on February 23, he said it was clear from the findings that all was not well at the prison located in the city.

He said the core of the problem lay with the overcrowding of the prisons due to the sloth of the criminal justice system. He said this was recognised by government and was being addressed at different levels, which included the reform in the magistracy.

Work is also underway to strengthen the Supreme Court registry and also to hasten legislative reform. The location of the prison, training of staff and the terms and conditions of employment will be dealt with to make the prison more secure, he said.

Luncheon said serious allegations have been made in the report about the supervision and the competence of various individuals in the Guyana Prison Service (GPS) who were assigned specific responsibilities in keeping with their job descriptions. He said that Cabinet had not discussed the issue of calls for the resignation of Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, prompted by the rise in violent crime since the prisoners escaped. He said that other issues such as internal security were of far greater importance. He remarked that Gajraj was recognised for the tremendous contribution he has made in discharging his constitutional responsibilities. Cabinet has no "sentiment" towards a possible resignation by Gajraj, he stated.

The recommendations in the report targeting the human resources aspect of the GPS such as staffing, training and measures to improve supervision were being addressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Physical security, provision of weaponry and the training of officers in the proper use of the weapons were also being implemented, he said.

Luncheon said the findings have put the focus on the administration of the GPS and the intelligence community was studying them.

Specific recommendations dealing with the joint services and the security aspects of the Georgetown prison were being addressed.