Citizens deserve consistent sentences from court – AG

– says sentencing guidelines to be introduced by mid-2022

The Government will be looking to introduce sentencing guidelines by mid-2022 in Guyana, setting out a guide for the Judiciary that will prevent them from dispensing heavily disproportionate sentences on those convicted of crimes.
This was revealed in an interview with Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC. According to Nandlall, this is part of a project being undertaken between the Attorney General Chambers and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). He noted that many countries have sentencing guidelines and the time has come for Guyana to join in this measured approach to justice.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC

“The Ministry of Legal Affairs and the Attorney General’s Chambers, is spearheading a project which includes the hiring of a consultant for the drafting of sentencing guidelines. In fact, there is a public advertisement currently out, in accordance with IADB stipulations, because they are the funding agency, seeking to enlist the services of a consultant to undertake the project, which is to draft sentencing guidelines.”
“Sentencing is a complex legal issue and persons have been complaining about inconsistent sentencing, as well as harsh sentences, and in some cases, they have been complaining about the minor nature of sentences so it’s a complicated exercise,” the AG also said.
Nandlall noted that there should be guiding principles governing the court for particular offences, ensuring continuity and consistency. He gave as an example someone being charged in different parts of Guyana but their sentences differing drastically.
According to the Senior Counsel, this should not happen unless there is a special circumstance. Nandlall emphasized that the public is entitled to a reasonable expectation of what sentence they are likely to get, for specific offences.
“A man gets charged with larceny of a rear-view mirror or a fender from a vehicle in Lethem and he does so on the East Coast of Demerara, the Magistrate in Lethem and the Magistrate on the East Coast of Demerara, their sentences or their penalties imposed, should not vary vastly, unless you have some special or peculiar circumstance that differentiates the two offences,” he said.
The Government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) recently signed a loan agreement for intervention in Guyana’s justice sector. As such, the Support for Criminal Justice System (SCJS) programme seeks to address institutional issues which affect the country’s criminal justice system.
Part of the loan will go towards consulting services. The SCJS programme is seeking the services of a consulting firm that is qualified and has relevant experience in sentencing guidelines, encompassing diversion and alternative sentencing options.
The consulting firm will be required to draft, and support the implementation of a comprehensive set of sentencing guidelines that reflects suitable diversions and alternative sentencing options for all, including adults, juveniles, and children.
In a judgement delivered in May 2020 in the case of Linton Pompey vs the Director of Public Prosecutions of Guyana, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) stressed the need for sentencing guidelines to be developed and published by the Judiciary of Guyana, noting that the absence of such is a disservice to trial Judges.
“This appeal underscores the urgent need for the Judiciary of Guyana to publish sentencing guidelines. The publication of sentencing guidelines would undoubtedly play a key role in building public trust and confidence in the Judiciary and in promoting the rule of law,” CCJ Judge Maureen Rajnauth-Lee had said.
Several states throughout the Caribbean Community have established such sentencing guidelines including Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. In Guyana, on the other hand, there is no statute or regulation guiding Judges and Magistrates in imposing a sentence on a person found guilty of an offence. In the absence of these guidelines, the imposition of a sentence is largely at the judicial officers’ discretion.