$92M living quarters for judicial officers commissioned in Berbice

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Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, has commissioned a $92 million fully-furnished and modern living quarters for judicial officers in Berbice, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).

Located in the compound of the Berbice High Court, the facility was commissioned on Wednesday.

Addressing members of the gathering was Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, who said that commissioning of the building signifies growth and success, as it showcases the Judiciary’s commitment to the well-being of its staff.

Justice Cummings-Edwards said Commissioners of Titles, often referred to as Land Court Judges, as well as Magistrates and all other judicial officers who are tasked with carrying out essential duties, will occupy the premises.

The building is comprised of four apartments, each of which has two bedrooms, one of which is self-contained. Each apartment has a spacious living room, dining room, and toilet and bath facilities.
The apartments will be occupied by four judicial officers – three Magistrates and a Land Court Judge.

According to the Chancellor, except for one Magistrate, all other Magistrates and Judges in Berbice reside elsewhere, which means that when they are assigned to preside in that county, accommodation must be provided for them.

She said that while the State has been covering the costs of accommodation and travel for these judicial officers since the opening of courts there, the cost for rent has been high.

“…we have been renting premises throughout the length and breadth of Berbice for Magistrates. Our recent bill for the rental of premises is $375,000 per month. If we do the math, this works out to $4.5 million per year,” Justice Cummings-Edwards noted.

Considering this, she added, the Judiciary has seen it necessary to utilise its existing real estate to build living quarters for its staff “so that they can be comfortable even as they dispense justice.

“It will save us so much in rent…we are endeavouring to make this accommodation a home away from home,” she said while disclosing that a gym and other facilities will be added for staff to relax and exercise after a hard day’s work.

The Chancellor has emphasised that the comfort of judicial officers is of paramount importance, more so in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Committed

Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, SC, has said that commissioning of the living quarters shows the commitment of the Executive to working with the Judiciary as it continues to execute its mandate of delivering quality justice to the people of Guyana.

Noting that the State is obligated to ensure that the Judiciary is properly resourced, he assured that the State would do all that is lawfully necessary to ensure the Judiciary receives timely funding.

“We will continue to work with the Judiciary for the ultimate objective of delivering a high quality of justice. We will continue working together to create a justice system that we are all proud of, and a justice system, most importantly, that can enjoy the confidence of our people.”

He reminded that the Executive had just recently collaborated with the Judiciary for an “unprecedented initiative” which has seen the establishment of container- converted courtrooms that are equipped with the necessary technological apparatus to connect these courtrooms to Magistrates and defendants.

Several of these container courts are at the New Amsterdam, Camp Street, and Timehri Prisons.
According to Nandlall, the last phase will see similar courtrooms being established at the Mazaruni Prison.

Nandlall pointed out that the container courts initiative has significantly done well, and has resulted in the State saving millions of dollars in transporting inmates from the prisons to various courthouses. With the container courtrooms, the Magistrate/Judge joins virtually and the case is heard.

While the initiative was birthed out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Attorney General noted, its utility is so obvious that it will be expanded beyond that.

Apart from saving the State transportation costs, he added, the container courtrooms also protect judicial officers, prisoners, and court staff from exposure to the deadly COVID-19.

Moreover, Nandlall revealed that the State has been “eyeing spots” along the East Bank of Demerara for the construction of new magistrates’ courts. Added to that, he said the Executive, through the Legal Affairs Ministry, is currently working on revising the laws of Guyana.

“I am also working on a project that will see the resumption of the publication of the Guyana Law Reports from 2007 to 2020,” he added.

The Attorney General stressed, “A competent, efficient, and impartial judiciary is therefore sine qua non of an orderly and democratic society governed by the rule of law. Studies have shown that wherever there is a competent and impartial judiciary, there is both social and economic prosperity.

“The Judiciary is the guardian of our Constitution. It is the judiciary that interprets the laws enacted by Parliament. It is the Judiciary to which we must turn for settlement of our disputes and for the punishment of those who are found guilty of violating the laws…”

Besides the Chancellor of the Judiciary and the Attorney General, those who were in attendance at Wednesday’s commissioning ceremony were Chief Justice Roxane George-Wiltshire, SC, Chief Magistrate Ann McLennan, Magistrates Peter Hugh and Alex Moore, other judicial officers, and ranks of the Guyana Police Force.

Next month, living quarters for judicial officers will be commissioned in Bartica.