Guyana Police; Magistrates’ Court System corrupt – US State Dept. 2020 report finds…

– says widespread public perception implicates officials at all levels

 Apr 01, 2021 – Kaieteur News – The US State Department’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices for Guyana has found that the ranks of the Guyana Police Force are frequently engaged in acts of corruption—a practice that also taints the country’s magistracy. (See Report at end of this news item)

The recently released report on Guyana found that the Magistrates’ courts, which deals with both criminal and civil matters, was plagued with “inefficiencies, and alleged corruption in the magistrates’ court system affected citizens’ ability to seek timely remedies in civil matters, and there was a large backlog of civil cases.”     

Pointing to the hurdles facing the country’s judicial sector, although the law provides criminal detainees prompt access to a lawyer of their choice and to family members, the report noted that authorities occasionally did not fully respect this right.

It was noted too that while the state provides legal counsel for indigent persons, this is only done when such persons are charged with a capital offence.

The report said too that lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem, due primarily to judicial inefficiency, staff shortages, and cumbersome legal procedures.

It was pointed out that the average length of pretrial detention was three years for those awaiting trial at a magistrates’ court or in the High Court and this often exceeded the maximum possible sentence for the crime for which they were charged.

According to the US State Department, while the law provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality, “delays and inefficiencies undermined judicial due process.”

Additionally, “shortages of trained court personnel, postponements at the request of the defence or prosecution, occasional allegations of bribery, poor tracking of cases, and police slowness in preparing cases for trial caused delays.
Additionally, it was noted that in Guyana while the law recognises the right to legal counsel, it was limited to those who could afford to pay, except in cases involving capital crimes.

Killed by police: Cecil Sampat.

“Although there is no formal public defender system, a defendant in a murder case that reaches the High Court may receive a court-appointed attorney…The Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic, with government and private support, provided advice to persons who could not afford a lawyer, particularly victims of domestic violence and violence against women.”

As it relates to the Guyana Police Force, the US report concluded simply that, “Corruption by police officers was frequent.”

Qualifying its position, the document cited as example “there were reports the government prosecuted members of the police force during the year” and that “in July, the government prosecuted police officer Richard Persaud for extortion. Persaud resigned from the police force in August, and the prosecution against him was underway as of October.”

As it relates to public officers holding high office, the report lamented the deficiencies of the country’s Integrity Commission.

According to the report, while the country’s laws requires public officials to declare their assets to an integrity commission and sets out both criminal and administrative sanctions for non-disclosure, no publications of convictions occurred during the first nine months of the year.

It was underscored that “if a person fails to file a declaration, the daily newspapers and the official gazette can publish that fact” and that “failure to comply with the law can lead to a summary conviction, fines, and imprisonment for six to 12 months.”

If property is not disclosed as required, the magistrate convicting the defendant must order the defendant to make a full disclosure within a set time.

The report outlined, however, that although the integrity commission was reconstituted in 2018, after a 12-year hiatus, it did not appear to be fully functional since no publications or convictions occurred during the first nine months of the year.
According to the report, the law provides for criminal penalties for corruption by officials, and the government generally implemented the law effectively but there were isolated reports of government corruption during the year, and administration officials investigated these reports.

The report stated, however, that there remains “a widespread public perception of corruption involving officials at all levels, including the police and judiciary.”

Opposition Member and Chief Whip, Christopher Jones.

Other damning infractions highlighted in the US State Department document on Guyana were reports that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killing.

It stated for instance that, “in July, police shot and killed Cecil Sampat, an unarmed civilian.”

It said, according to police, Sampat was one of three passengers in a car who opened fire on the police but no gun was found in Sampat’s vehicle, nor was there gunshot residue on Sampat or the other passengers.

In August, the government charged the police officers who allegedly shot and killed Sampat.

Speaking to the matter of arbitrary arrests, the US report noted that in August 2020, police arrested Christopher Jones, a senior member of the opposition, and searched his home, although Jones had a court-issued injunction preventing the search.

Copy of Report: GUYANA-2020-HUMAN-RIGHTS-REPORT – US State Dept.

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  • kamtanblog  On 04/02/2021 at 2:34 am

    Surprise surprise !
    Loose loose situ for public security when
    corruption is endemic is public services.
    In some nation states it at a pandemic level.
    Where are the new legislation to tackle
    Anti social anti corruption behaviour ?
    How can one expect an endemically corrupt police force to enforce such laws ?
    If the poo poo have to accept bribes to supplement income some radical changes
    to recruiting funding is a necessity !

    Come on Guyana
    Surely you can do better

    Off my soap box

    Kamtan uk-ex-EU

  • Kman  On 04/02/2021 at 12:27 pm

    Sure the whole country is probably corrupt, but the question is, why do the Yankees have to do a report? The US is also a partly corrupt and unjust country, so why don’t they focus their efforts on their own country?

  • detow  On 04/02/2021 at 5:29 pm

    Hooray Kman, just what I was thinking. The USA is no different from any other corrupt country, just richer and bigger.

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