Representatives of the Guyanese court system spent an intense week in Vancouver, Canada this month studying the British Columbia (BC) Provincial Court’s problem-solving courts, use of technology, and system performance measures, as well as trial scheduling, early resolution, and case management strategies.
The study programme was part of the Justice Education Society of BC (JES) project funded by the Canadian Government to help Guyana strengthen its criminal justice system.
The two-year project aims at strengthening the Guyanese justice system by developing the technical capacity of the Police, Prosecutors and Magistrates to work with criminal evidence. The project also includes training in criminal investigations, case preparation, evidence handling, and trial advocacy. The recent study tour in Vancouver focused on court administration concepts and design, highlighting the initiatives the BC Provincial Court has undertaken to maximise the effective, equitable and efficient use of its resources and minimise wait times for trials.
Headed by Chancellor of the Judiciary, Carl Singh, the delegation included High Court Judge, Justice Brassington Reynolds; Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan; and Director of Public Prosecutions Bibi Shalimar Ali-Hack. Their week was packed with presentations, courtroom visits, and opportunities for discussion with those involved in the BC initiatives they were studying.
Daily debriefing sessions allowed the delegates to discuss possible applications of what they learnt that day to their own system and to identify related issues.
Chancellor Singh expressed particular interest in BC’s community and drug treatment courts, and in the Digital Audio Recording System (DARS) used by BC’s Court Services branch to record court proceedings. He explained that Canadian Provincial Court Chief Judge Thomas Crabtree had, following a previous visit to Guyana, prepared “an extremely valuable report” with suggestions for consideration, and that actually seeing the suggested measures in action helped tremendously. The Chancellor added that he is determined the study tour will yield results, and hopes to implement some measures, within resources, without delay.
Chancellor Singh also stressed his appreciation for the welcome the delegation received, saying “All the judges and others we spoke to were very accommodating, warm, and helpful”. Chief Judge Crabtree replied, “It was a pleasure and a privilege to host judicial colleagues from Guyana and share with them the initiatives we have studied, developed and implemented in recent years. With the help of Project Manager Evelyn Neaman, Country Representative Rolinda Kirton, and retired judge Michael Hicks, the court presented an intensive programme to acquaint our guests with a number of our administrative initiatives in the criminal justice field that might be adapted for use in Guyana. We are looking forward to future collaboration with our Guyanese colleagues.”
JES is a Canadian non–profit organisation with an impressive record of improving the effectiveness of justice systems in Canada and around the world. The Guyana project is being implemented in collaboration with the Public Security and Legal Affairs Ministries, as well as the Office of the Chancellor of the Judiciary, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Guyana Police Force.
The ACCBP funds a number of regional security projects which benefit Guyana, including the recently launched INTERPOL Project to combat human trafficking in the Caribbean and a project to strengthen the anti-money laundering systems in Central America and the Caribbean.
Canada is also working to strengthen national justice systems in the region, by sharing Canadian expertise, improving access to and efficiency of the justice system, and providing training and mentoring programmes for both Police and justice officials.