After 2 years of COVID-19 restrictions: Ceremonial opening of Demerara Criminal Assizes resumes
After a two-year hiatus because of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic, the ceremonial march-past done by ranks of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) to mark the opening of the various sessions of the Demerara Criminal Assizes will resume on Tuesday.
Apart from this, there will also be a march around the outer skirts of the High Court in Demerara by Chancellor of the Judiciary Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards, Chief Justice (ag) Roxane George, SC, other Judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature, Director of Public Prosecutions Shalimar Ali-Hack, SC and members of the Bar.
Thereafter, there will be a ceremony in celebration of law week. Tuesday’s activities will be live-streamed via the Supreme Court of Judicature’s website (https://supremecourt.gy/) and on the National Communications Network.
Days after Guyana recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 11, 2020, the Judiciary indefinitely suspended all in-person hearings, including jury trials in the counties of Demerara, Essequibo and Berbice. In September 2020, the Judiciary issued its Practice Directions which paved the way for jury trials to resume on October 6, 2021. But the traditional ceremonial march-past remained suspended. The Practice Directions were aimed at preserving the right of an accused to a fair trial within a reasonable time and maintaining the integrity of the judicial process.
With the proceedings being conducted for the most part by audio/video link (Zoom), the in-person attendance of the prosecutors and defence counsel were optional. While accused persons on remand also appeared via video/audio link, the attendance of accused persons on bail were subjected to directions of the court and social distancing requirements. Witnesses residing locally were given the option to testify in person or via Zoom. Those residing abroad testified by audio/visual link. The Practice Directions remain enforced. In mid-March, the Government lifted several COVID-19 restrictions, including proof of vaccination to enter public buildings, and the restrictions on social gathering. The wearing of face masks is no longer mandatory but encouraged when in public. Since the removal of the national curfew and COVID-19 measures, Health Minister Dr Frank Anthony said there has been a decline in COVID-19 deaths, cases, the number of persons presenting themselves for testing and vaccination.
Meanwhile, the cases listed for hearing at the April session are for the offences of murder, manslaughter, sexual offences, attempt to commit murder, inflicting grievous bodily harm, trafficking narcotics, abduction, obtaining money by false pretence, conspiracy to commit a felony, robbery under arms, conspiracy to commit murder, wrongful confinement for ransom and accessory after the fact.
Males are predominantly the accused in the case of the sexual offence which include carnal knowledge of a girl under 15, carnal knowledge of a girl under 12, buggery, rape, indecent assault of a male, sexual activity with a child family member, sexual activity with a child by abusing a position of trust, sexual assault and incest. (G1)