The Sexual Offences Act, Section 44, provides for the establishment of a Sexual Offences Court, and in keeping with this law and after months of fruitful discussions and planning, the Supreme Court of Judicature on May 5, 2019, officially launched its second Sexual Offences Court. This new courtroom will be housed at the Berbice High Court, Esplanade Road, New Amsterdam.
According to the Department of Public Information (DPI), the project was completed in approximately three months by VK Construction Service at the cost of G$13M.
Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, while addressing the gathering at the launch, highlighted that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has collaborated significantly with the justice department and provided much needed financial support and capacity building in the quest to ensure that justice is served in a fair, efficient and timely manner.
She noted that there is a total of 37 cases involving sexual offences in the Berbice Assizes. With the new court in the district, Justice Cummings-Edwards said those issues will be dealt with in a way which respects the dignity and privacy of the victims.
According to Justice Cummings-Edwards, since the doors to the first Sexual Offences Court in Georgetown was opened in November 2017, it has seen some 53 cases with convictions totalling 33 and 20 acquittals, thus far. Sentences from such convictions ranged from nine years to life imprisonment. Those crimes for which trials were conducted included seven rape cases, 21 cases with a child under 16 years, 15 cases of sexual activity with a child and family member and 1 case carnal knowledge.
Deputy British High Commissioner, Ray Davidson commended the Supreme Court for establishing such an “advanced courtroom” and stated that the new system replicates “much of what is being done in the United Kingdom (UK).”
UNICEF resident representative to Guyana and Suriname, Sylvia Fouet, in her remarks, pledged her organisation’s support in overcoming issues concerning sexual violence and encouraged families, specifically children, to use their services when necessary.
Attending the historic event were Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George, Magistrate Renita Singh, members of the Berbice Bar Association; Commander of B Division, Assistant Commissioner Paul Langevine, Officer in Charge of the Guyana Fire Service B Division, Mr. Scotland (GFS) and Officer in Charge of the New Amsterdam Prison Service (GPS), Superintendent Deoraj Gyandat, among others, DPI reported.