The Social Protection Ministry in collaboration with the British High Commission of Guyana and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) on Monday commissioned the third Sexual Offences Court, this time in Essequibo, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam).
The structure was built in Suddie at the tune of $17.4 million, with funding from the British High Commission and UNICEF. The two other Sexual Offences Courts are located in Georgetown, Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica) and Berbice High Court, Esplanade Road, New Amsterdam, Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne).
The Department of Public Information (DPI) reported that under the leadership of Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, victims or survivors of sexual violence in the “Cinderella” county have been given a haven to testify without fear of secondary trauma.
According to Justice Cummings-Edwards, the justice system was virtually failing victims of sexual violence, who were before exposed to a hostile system.
“What you are about to see here in the Sexual Offences Court and the special measures room, will tell you that we have come a long way in ensuring that victims are able to give their evidence in such a comfortable and dignified way to ensure that justice is done,” she told the gathering of judges, lawyers and prosecutors.
Meanwhile, Social Protection Minister Amna Ally lauded the project as Guyana has managed to establish three specialised courts within the three counties to address sexual offences.
She said the scourge of sexual violence in Guyana and the need for robust interventions for specialised infrastructural requirements in courts for victims of sexual violence were things that could no longer be overlooked by the judicial system.
“The idea of a specialised court is to reestablish trust in the system, to show that the system can adapt, and victims can rely on trained individuals who understand the particulars of sexual violence… We must be able to tell victims ‘you are heard’, and it’s our job to adapt the system to their complex reality, rather than they being forced to adapt to the system itself,” Ally posited.
Deputy British High Commissioner to Guyana, Ray Davidson said institutions such as the Sexual Offences Court will make a difference.
The specialised court has a main courtroom that will house the defence counsel, prosecutors and jurors. It has a closed-circuit system linked up to the special measures room that will allow victims to give evidence without having to face the perpetrators.