Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall SC MP, on Friday held an important engagement with certain pivotal stakeholders on the way forward with the Support for the Criminal Justice System (SCJS) Programme.
This engagement is following the mid-year review of the SCJS Programme which is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Joining AG Nandlall at the consultation session were Director of Public Prosecutions Mrs. Shalimar Ali-Hack SC, Commissioner of Police of the Guyana Police Force Mr. Nigel Hoppie, Deputy Commissioner – Operations of the Guyana Police Force Mr. Clifton Hicken, Head of the Psychiatry Guyana Public Health Corporation (GPHC) Dr. Bhiro Harry, Dr. Meena Rajkumar, Psychiatrist and Forensic Psychiatry, Ministry of Health/ (GPHC), Mr. Rabindra Kandhi, Procurement Officer of the SCJS Programme, Ms. Indira Anandjit Project Manager of the SCJS Programme and Ms. Joanne Bond, Deputy Parliamentary Counsel.
The consultation was to solicit views on the next steps to be pursued in the SCJS Programme that will have the greatest possible positive impact on Guyana’s legal system. The meeting produced a number of recommendations which are to be reviewed, analyzed and canvassed before the IDB for approval. They include the review of legislations such as the Plea-Bargaining Act, Probation of Offenders Act and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (Control) Act with a view of removing from these legislations certain sections that will allow State agencies and offenders to create constructive relationships and interactions outside of the realm of custodial sentences which would be mutually beneficial to the public as well as the offenders.
The consultation gave rise to recommendations being made for the reduction in the overcrowding of prisons and the manner in which mental health and drug use are addressed by the penal system and the judiciary. There was unanimous agreement that Guyana’s archaic mental health legislation needed to be repealed and or amended and in conjunction with that, the required infrastructure and human resources to support the wide sweeping effect of the amendments.
Discussed was the proposed implementation of Drug Health Courts and Mental Health Treatment Courts in every Magisterial District in Guyana that will exclusively manage accused persons who are afflicted with either ailment and have committed crimes.
Significantly, was the contribution of Guyana’s premier psychiatrists who alluded to the current ineffective and inefficient method that currently obtains in Guyana for treating persons who are before the Magistrate’s court but cannot receive the care they require, as a result there will be a national proposal to completely overhaul Guyana’s treatment of persons suffering from mental health and drug addiction who are in Guyana’s Criminal Justice system. Another recommendation related to greater efficiency in the Guyana Police Force as an integral adjunct to the criminal justice system. The AG recommended that proceeds from the programme be used to resource the Police Force with both equipment and personnel to type statements in criminal matters as well as to improve the system whereby witnesses are summoned in criminal trials. Also discussed was the construction of a modern management information system to be shared by all the stakeholder organizations in the criminal justice system which will accommodate a database for persons who have interacted with or in the criminal justice system, so that antecedents are stored and quickly recovered.