During 2020, 101 cases were disposed of, according to statistics recently released by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Of the 101 cases, 83 of them received attention in the courts, while the remaining 18 matters were nolle prosequi by the DPP.
Of these 83 cases, 62 were presented at the Demerara Assizes, 15 at the Berbice Assizes and six at the Essequibo Assizes. Assizes are courts which sit at intervals in each county of Guyana to administer the criminal law.
There were 63 cases for murder, three for attempt to commit murder, 15 cases for sexual offences and two cases for the offence of manslaughter.
There were 12 convictions, 53 guilty pleas, nine formal verdicts of not guilty, five not guilty verdicts by jury, five hung juries, three aborted trials, one quashed. The DPP’s office said that the October session of the Demerara Criminal Assizes commenced on October 6, 2020, with a total of 369 cases listed to be heard.
However, sittings did not commence until November after COVID-safe arrangements were put in place for the jury trials. Owing to the limited facilities at the prison, only cases involving one accused person were done. However, if accused persons who were charged jointly with others wished to plead guilty, they could have done so.
Of the 369 cases listed, only 36 were disposed of, of which the DPP presented 34 in the High Court of Demerara while two matters were nolle prosequi in writing by the DPP. Of these 34 matters, 33 were for murder and one for the offence of rape of a child under 16 years.
There was a total of 39 accused persons in these 34 matters. In relation to these 39 persons, there were 28 guilty pleas, four convictions, five formal verdicts of not guilty and two not guilty verdicts by jury.
Meanwhile, the Berbice October 2020 Criminal Assizes commenced on Tuesday, October 20, 2020, after COVID-safe arrangements were put in place for jury trials. Ninety-six cases were listed to be heard. Of these 96 cases, a mere six were completed in the Berbice High Court.
These six cases were all for the offence of murder in which the accused pleaded guilty to the lesser offence of manslaughter and were sentenced. The Berbice Criminal Assizes remains in progress and continues until Tuesday, February 2, 2021.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Essequibo October 2020 Criminal Assizes did not sit. The necessary arrangements are being made for COVID-safe trials to commence in January 2021.
The Demerara January 2021 Criminal Assizes will open on Tuesday, January 12. There are 342 cases listed to be heard which will be presided over by only three Judges. The February 2021 Berbice Criminal Assizes will commence on Tuesday, February 2. Justice Simone Ramlall will continue the October 2020 Assizes and open the February 2021 Criminal Assizes.
The Essequibo October 2020 Assizes will begin sitting on January 5, 2021, and be presided over by Justice Gino Persaud. It will continue on to the February 2021 Assizes. Moreover, in 2020, the DPP’s officer received 75 committal depositions. Thirty-two of these were from Demerara, 29 from Berbice and 14 from Essequibo.
Of these 75 depositions, 51 have been indicted, three charges were discontinued, 19 are receiving attention and two were remitted to the Magistrates’ Courts.