The National Assembly on Monday passed the Restorative Justice Bill of 2022 with no amendments, paving the way for the use of restorative justice in Guyana’s criminal justice system.
Restorative justice is an approach to problem solving that, in its various forms, involves the victim, the offender, and the community. Restorative justice programmes are based on the fundamental principle that, criminal behaviour not only violates the law, but also injures victims and the community. Its main objective is to repair the harm caused by the offence.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, SC, informed the National Assembly that the new concept is not a substitute for imprisonment, but is rather aimed at reducing prison term based on the facts and circumstances of the case.
“We now have this new concept of restorative justice as part of our statutory landscape. As I said, it is a new concept, it is evolving, it is exciting, and it will allow our courts to make orders outside of the conventional penal nature of orders that it is now circumscribe to make and explore a whole host of potential and opportunities to address in a real way, in a practical and pragmatic way the circumstances that may have led to criminal conduct and also for that conduct to be rehabilitated for compensation to be paid and for society to also benefit,” Minister Nandlall stated in conclusion.
The bill will see the minister appointing a Director of Restorative Justice to manage and organise the restorative justice programmes and supervise persons in the programme.
The office of the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) may refer an offender, in writing to the Director for the offender’s participation in restorative justice.
It is important to note that the restorative justice concept is not open to all criminal offenders but a few outlined in the act.
These include, any offence under section 160; (b) simple larceny under section 164, other than larceny of agricultural products or livestock; (c) larceny from the person under section 182; (d) larceny by a tenant or lodger under section 183; (e) larceny by a clerk or servant under section 184; (f) larceny in a dwelling house under section 187; (g) embezzlement by a clerk or servant under section 190; and (h) fraudulent conversion of property entrusted for sale under section 198.Offences such as murder, terrorism, treason and other offences outlined in the bill are exempted from restorative justice.
The attorney general also noted that the bill will ease the overcrowding in the prisons in Guyana. The bill was supported by Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn who said the prison population has increased by 40 per cent.
“The overall question of restorative justice is critically important, first as a concept at the levels of schools as I said and particularly having persons know that there is a formal way of resolving conflict, of getting victims support and compensation too.”
The now passed Restorative Justice Bill is part of government’s commitment to strengthening the justice system in Guyana and reducing the prison population through alternative sentencing.