Chief Justice Singh: 'Crime in Guyana has altered fundamentally in last twelve months'
Calls on parties to solve judicial service commission logjam
By John Mair in London
April 24, 2003
Chief Justice Carl Singh recognised the new reality on the streets of Guyana due to the tidal wave of violent crime, when he told an audience of lawyers in London on Monday that: "The whole nature of crime in Guyana has altered fundamentally in the last twelve months. It has taken on a brutal and violent dimension". He said that crimes such as 'choke and rob', once regarded as serious, were now seen as "just minor offences".
The crime wave coupled with a crisis in judicial numbers (as a result of the Judicial Service Commission being a victim of the political standoff) and the influx of deportee criminals schooled in the 'Universities of Crime in the USA' plus the "horrendous" conditions in the nation's jails, which he had recently seen first hand, all made for very trying times for justice in the country.
Chief Justice Singh was on his way back from the Com-monwealth Law Officers' Conference in Melbourne, Australia. His address, despite being on a British public holiday, at the Guyana High Commission still attracted forty Guyanese and other lawyers to this first public meeting of the Guyana Law Association. That has been formed to aid the administration of law in Guyana intellectually and materially. Law books have been collected and are due to be shipped back in June.
Much of the frustration of the Chief Justice was directed at the Judicial Service Com-mission logjam. That meant "severe manpower shortages" for example seven high court judges in his rota instead of twelve. Two were always needed in Berbice, one in Chambers, one at the bail court. That left just three High Court judges to try all the other cases. It was, he said a "Herculean task" and "one can only hope for a political miracle" to clear up the jam.
One possible "quick fix" was for the new JSC - if and when appointed - to look for and to appoint temporary judges for six or twelve-month terms; some of these might be from the UK. Several careerist ears around the room perked up at this. He promised them a Guyanese judiciary pure in spirit. He rejected any thoughts of the courts in Guyana being politics by other means: "The judiciary is not affected by pressure of any sort", he maintained.
One area where Chief Justice Singh was able to report positively was the provision of textbooks and case law for the Supreme Court Library in Georgetown. Already the UK, Canadian and Indian governments have ensured up to date and complete sets of law reports from their jurisdiction. He hoped that as a result of conversations in Melbourne, the Australian and South African law reports would soon, too, become available in George-town. He paid tribute to the judicial training programmes run in Guyana and Britain by the Lord Chancellor's department and the Carter Center in America. The quality of justice was improving in Guyana even if the crimes they judged had become more horrendous and even viler.
The Chief Justice urged the lawyers of the UK diaspora to continue to try to help meet the "personal and material" shortcomings of the Guyanese legal system.