Disappearance of case files, fraud, victimisation during trials and dissatisfaction with the court’s decision were among the complaints made by citizens against the judiciary (court system) during the period May 17, 2017 to December 31, 2018, Ombudsman Justice retired Winston Patterson stated in his most recent report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday.
According to the report, citizens also complained of injustice, too many postponements of court matters, failure to get a date for hearing after a request for hearing was filed, delays in judge’s decisions, delays in appeal hearing and trials because of records not being ready. While these complaints were advised accordingly, the Ombudsman said that his office is precluded by the Constitution of Guyana from investigating the commencement of conduct of civil or criminal proceedings in court.
Complaints were also filed against magistrates for rendering unfair decisions, sexual insults in court, denial of the right to have an attorney-at-law and behaving in an aggressive and abusive manner in court. According to the report, persons also made complaints against Legal Practitioner (lawyers) for failure to attend court and represent their client, too many requests for postponement, lack of communication with clients, deficiency and lack of professionalism.
“In some of these situations, I contacted the Attorneys-at-Law, informing them of the complainant’s grievances and sought to obtain the information needed. In other cases, I referred the complainants to the relevant authority to advance their concerns,” Justice Patterson noted in the report.
Complaints against the police include wrongful dismissal, denial of benefits and police not taking action after a complaint was lodge. These cases were however referred to the Police Complaint Authority and the Commissioner of Police for action to be taken.
In addition, persons also made complaints on behalf of prisoners. Those complaints had to do with the delay of preliminary inquiry and trials before the High Court; query of their parole and National Insurance Scheme (NIS) benefits. The relevant authorities were informed of these complaints and complainants were advised accordingly.
Meanwhile, the Ombudsman disclosed that complaints were received from members of the public in relation to land disputes among family members and between neighbours, landlord and tenant and business transactions. The report pointed out that these complaints were not investigate because the Constitution precludes the Ombudsman from carrying out investigation against certain institutions, and in certain matters.
The investigation of the Ombudsman is done by correspondence. While some of them are answered within a reasonable time, others are answered after several reminders; some remain unanswered, the report pointed out.
In this regard, Justice Patterson has commended the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Prison Service among others for their cooperation and prompt response to most of his correspondence. He stated that he hopes that other Government departments and agencies will emulate them.
The main task of the Office of the Ombudsman is to investigate whether there is or there is not any act of maladministration e.g. error, negligence, delay, discrimination, misapplication or misinterpretation of the law.
In that regard, for the period May 17, 2017 to December 31, 2018, the Office of the Ombudsman received a total of 229 complaints. Of the 229 complaints, 91 of them were outside of the jurisdiction of his Office and were referred to the relevant authorities. One hundred and thirty-eight (138) of these complaints were investigated, of which 30 are still pending with the relevant authorities.
More than 70 percent of the complaints made were by persons who walked in seeking advice and assistance.