Guyana: Building housing DPP Chambers and Office of Professional Responsibility on fire – UPDATED

The building housing the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers is burning Saturday afternoon.

Already, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) offices have been destroyed.

Police, lawyers and other personnel are rescuing vital case files from the DPP Chambers.     

Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn as well as Police Commissioner Nigel Hoppie and Fire Chief Edoo are on the scene.

The building is within the compound of the Police Headquarters, Eve Leary.

This fire comes several weeks after the Brickdam Police Station, including the Court Superintendent’s office and Division A Criminal Investigations Department were destroyed by a Saturday afternoon fire.

More details to follow..

Fire rekindles urgency for digitising court records- DPP

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Shalimar Hack stands next to a pile of paper files, computers and other items that were removed from her Chambers.

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Attorney-at-Law Shalimar Hack said almost all case files and other criminal records were saved from Saturday’s fire at the building housing her chambers, but the blaze rekindled the urgent need to digitise the system.

“It is something I have been asking for for years now to digitise the system. This shows the wisdom in having a digitised system,” she said.  Ms. Hack acknowledged that she hoped that the fire would “surely” serve as an impetus.       

The DPP’s Chambers and the Office of Professional Responsibility were housed in a building on Rabbit Walk, Eve Leary facing the Georgetown Seawall.

Even as police, lawyers and other personnel were busy moving hundreds of case files, cabinets containing documents, printers, law books and other literature, Ms. Hack told reporters that cases would have to be rescheduled until the Chambers reorganises its records. “To some extent, yes, because all the documents are mixed up. We just brought it out in the circumstances of a blazing fire because the fire was raging in the building,” she said. She had no idea when the DPP’s Chambers would become organised again “because it’s a lot of paper.” “It’s not just files for ongoing matters but we have records for matters that are completed…It is a paper-based system so it is a lot of paper,” she said.

The DPP explained that the staff in the Attorney General’s office would be appearing in the Assizes, adding that all the files and depositions would be in the office except for those that the lawyers had for matters that they are currently doing. She said among the now disorganised documents are those by Police Prosecutors for cases before the magistrates’ courts.

Senior State Counsel Gibbs with files that she rescued from the burning building that houses the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Several police pickups and a bus, and a pickup belong to RK Security Service were seen transporting files to the Guyana Police Force’s headquarters compound.

The DPP said none of the records concerning the electoral fraud cases against former top officials and current staff members of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) and members of the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) were not affected by the fire as they are located elsewhere. “The original files for those were not in this office,” she said. Those matters come up for case management and the fixing of a date for trial.

She also said that paper documents and digital storage for other cases were not damaged or destroyed by the mid afternoon blaze. “The DPP’s office was saved and we have been able to save the documents as well as the hard drives for the computers. Now, we thank God for that!,” Ms. Hack said.

Firefighters saved the eastern section of the wooden building, which houses the DPP Chambers, but the middle and western end  that houses the Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility was destroyed.

Police Commissioner, Nigel Hoppie told reporters that although the OPR office was destroyed, cases before that body would not be affected because files are housed elsewhere. “Most if not all of the cases have connections to several divisions also because, as you are aware, we have decentralised Office of Professional Responsibility that is in every region throughout the country,” Mr. Hoppie told reporters.

A firefighter on a construction scaffold attempting to douse the flames on the western end of the building which housed the Office of Professional Responsibility.

Several government ministers including Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall; Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn, Minister of Education Attorney-at-Law Priya Manickchand, Minister of Governance Gail Teixeira, Minister of Natural Resources Vickram Bharrat and Prime Minister Mark Phillips were present at the fire scene.

Coming just over one month after the Guyana Police Force’s ‘A’ Division Headquarters /Brickdam Police Station was destroyed by fire, the Prime Minister declined to be drawn into comment about whether he thought the two were coincidental. “The investigation will help us to determine whether it’s coincidental or if there is some other motive or reason behind this fire so we need to allow the fire service and the police and the law enforcement agencies to do their work,” said Mr. Phillips, a retired Brigadier and former Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force.

The Brickdam Police Station had housed the Court Superintendent’s Office.

Files and other documents being removed from the Chambers of the Director of Public Prosecutions

DPP office saved but OPR section destroyed by fire

-Prime Minister says investigations are ongoing into how the fire started

Major losses were on Saturday avoided after quick response from the Guyana Fire Service resulted in the fire at the Guyana Police Force’s Office for Professional Responsibility (OPR) being brought under control. This resulted in the saving of Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) which is housed in the same building in Eve Leary.

Prime Minister (Ret’d) Brigadier Hon. Mark Phillips, M.P., Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Robeson Benn, M.P. and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Hon. Gail Teixeira M.P., along with several other ministers of government were on the ground.

The Prime Minister in addressing the media said, “we have been able to save the DPP part of the building. So, the fire service is doing their work and you do not expect, based on what we are seeing here, for the fire to spread beyond where it is right now.”

He further added that “the investigation will help us to determine whether it is coincidental or if there is some other motive or reason behind this fire. So, we need to allow the fire service and the police and law enforcement agencies to do their work… the important thing right now is that we have the fire under control, not likely to spread beyond this point and the investigation into what may be the cause of the fire has started.”

Minister Benn said that the fire has placed the operations of the OPR and DPP in disarray. The minister said he believes that Guyana is experiencing a “trial by fire.”

“It appears that a subliminal message is being put around the areas starting from some fire-technic minded person in the United States and maybe, perhaps much more than likely that the incidents we see and the timings at which they occur are related to those more than subliminal messages about Georgetown burning if the PPP do not do whatever,” Minister Benn said.

“We will stand firm here; we will make sure that the work of our government and the development of our country proceeds,” he stated.

Documents from the DPP’s office being removed

Commissioner of Police (ag), Nigel Hoppie in an interview disclosed that despite the loss of documents in the OPR, the force has always had a backup in place.

“We always have contingency systems in place but of course, any fire initially would affect us going forward but together as a team, we will put systems in place to ensure that it does not hamper our progress in addressing the issues at hand… most, if not all the cases have connections to several divisions also because as you are aware, we have decentralised Office of Professional Responsibility, that is in every region throughout our country,” he stated.

The remains of the building below

Chief Fire Officer, Kalamadeen Edoo said the fire service received the call about the fire at 13:50hrs which saw fire tenders from the Central, Campbellville, Alberttown and West Ruimveldt fire stations responding to the scene. The building which was under fire housed OPR, the Office of the DPP, Police Headquarters Barracks and the construction section of the force.

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  • wic  On 11/20/2021 at 4:34 pm

    Very sad, these serious fires in Georgetown even though there should be more than enough water available to extinguish same. Congratulations to those who are seen putting themselves at risk to remove files and equipment!

    Not sure where are the firefighters, possibly at the other side of the buildings? It seems that Instead of re-building offices in Georgetown which floods continuously but the water being of no use in helping to fight fires in old wooden structures, it’s time to relocate the Capital to off the Linden highway. Nature and karma is pointing the direction in which to go and all that is needed now is the political will.

    Get moving on this; spend the oil money wisely and jail those who would over-bill or steal the country’s resources that should be used for the project.

  • Debster  On 11/20/2021 at 4:56 pm

    It just shows you how corrupt and seedy this country has become run by low life

    So most of the cases are now lost because the corrupt country run by dirty old men have purpose ly set fire to the place to erase their chums paedo crimes

    I feel so so sorry for these poor people who have to live and work like dogs.

    • Debster  On 11/20/2021 at 5:06 pm

      Oh my goodness nothing was kept on computer ? Well the paedo and wife beaters will be out having a great time . You have to laugh at this joke of a country !!!

  • wally n  On 11/20/2021 at 6:54 pm

    Sad but, not unique problem. Older Companies with wooden buildings construct/ build close or as addons fire proof storage, this also where the digital transfer is usually done. Start building guys.

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