A recent media report which revealed that four men were acquitted of rape after the complainants could not be located, failed to mention the length of time between the alleged acts and the start of the trials. Past experiences indicate that this intervening period is usually years, and the fact that the complainants could not be located would seem to support this inference. In any case, if rape cases are fast-tracked, especially given that Sexual Offences Courts are now established in all three counties, the issue of complainants not being located would not arise. To foster this fast-tracking, The Caribbean Voice suggests that in areas where the Sexual Offences Court cannot serve, special days be set aside each month in selected courts, to only deal with rape and sexual abuse cases.
The media report also stated that one person was set free after the complainant refused to testify against him. In the context of Guyana, it’s quite possible that complainants would refuse to testify either because they and their families would have been threatened and/or would have been bought off. The Caribbean Voice has referenced this issue before and is among stakeholders suggesting that cases should still go ahead since Police investigations should acquire evidence besides the testimony of the complainant. As well, we suggest that when a victim refuses to testify, Police should launch a separate investigation to determine if the complainant was coerced into doing so by fear, money or other factors.
Consideration must also be given as to why a victim may refuse to testify as it could be because the victim does not want to be in the presence of the perpetrator or that the victim does not want to graphically and publicly relive that experience. In such cases, the courts should make necessary adjustments to accommodate victims, including having a psychologist present.
The Caribbean Voice