20 matters completed at Berbice, Essequibo Criminal Assizes
A total of 20 matters have been completed so far at the Essequibo and Berbice Criminal Assizes which remain in progress and will continue until May 17 and June 14, 2021, respectively. Justice Simone Morris-Ramlall sat until January 2021, closing the October 2020 Assizes for Essequibo.
She then opened the February 2021 Assizes on February 2, 2021.
A total of 101 cases are listed to be heard during this session but only 13 were disposed of thus far. Of the 13, eight were for the offence of murder, two for attempt to commit murder and three for sexual offences.
In three of the eight murder cases, one of the accused was found not guilty by the jury. Two of them were sentenced to life imprisonment, while the other accused was found guilty on the lesser count of manslaughter and sentenced to an 11-year jail term.
In the other five cases, there were six accused persons who all pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter. They were each sentenced to 16 years, 15 years, nine years, and two months, 11 years, and 13 years and two months’ imprisonment. In one of these cases, a co-accused minor was sentenced to two months in custody and three years of probation.
There were two cases for the offence of attempt to commit murder with alternate counts of felonious wounding. The juries in these cases returned unanimous verdicts for the alternate count and the two accused were each sentenced to six years and seven months and seven years and 11 months in prison.
In one of the three sexual offences matters, the accused pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment. The complainants in the other two matters informed the court they did not wish to proceed with their evidence and the Judge directed the jury to return formal not guilty verdicts.
Meanwhile, the Essequibo Criminal Assizes commenced on February 16, 2021, with 71 cases listed to be heard. Of the 71 cases, seven of them were presented before Justice Gino Persaud. Of these seven matters, there were five for the offence of murder and one each for the offences of manslaughter and rape of a child under 16 years.
In two of the murder cases, two accused pleaded guilty to the lesser count of manslaughter. One accused was sentenced to seven years, two months and six days’ imprisonment while the other is awaiting sentencing. In one of the other two cases, the accused was found guilty by a jury and is awaiting sentencing.
The jury in the other case returned hung and the accused was remanded back to prison to await a new trial. One case was aborted after it commenced because the court found out that one of the jurors was over 60 years old. The accused in this matter was also remanded back to prison to await a new trial. The accused who was indicted for manslaughter was found guilty by a jury and is awaiting sentencing. The matter for the offence of rape of a child under 16 years is ongoing.
So far for 2021, the DPP Chambers appeared in eight appeals at the Court of Appeal for the offences of murder, manslaughter, rape, assault causing actual bodily harm, sexual activity with a child under 16 years, dangerous driving, and possession of explosives.
Of these seven appeals, six were applications to appeal against conviction and sentences. In one case, the court granted the appellant his application to have a new trial for the offence of murder.
Another application was allowed in part with the sentence being varied. One application was withdrawn, while the three other applications were dismissed. Another two appeals against conviction and sentences are ongoing.