Govt to build more courthouses along EBD corridor, hinterland regions

To provide easier access to justice to every citizen, the Government intends to establish more courthouses along the populated East Bank Demerara (EBD) corridor and in the hinterland regions. Under the 2021 budget, a whopping $4.6 billion has been allocated for Justice Sector Reform and Strengthening.
The sum of $1.2 billion has been set aside for the construction and equipping of new courtrooms as well as living quarters and supporting facilities in Port Kaituma and Mabaruma in Region One (Barima-Waini), Vigilance in Region Four (Demerara-Mahaica), and on the East Bank of Demerara.
During his budget speech, Senior Minister with Responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh said that the construction of new courtrooms will reduce travel time and cost for citizens requiring the services of the courts.
In December 2020, the Government launched several container courtrooms at the Lusignan Prison to conduct virtual court hearings to minimise the spread of the deadly COVID-19 and to ensure that accused persons are afforded a trial within a reasonable time. Similar facilities will be implemented soon at the New Amsterdam, Mazaruni, and Camp Street Prisons.
The Judiciary has been taking steps to ensure that justice is delivered on time regardless of where citizens live by constructing new Magistrate’s Courts, expanding several courthouses, opening new Magisterial Districts, and appointing new Magistrates and Judges.
Last November, the Judiciary opened bids for the construction of new Magistrates’ Courts at Vigilance, Port Kaituma, and Mabaruma. Bids were also opened for the expansion of the Court of Appeal in Kingston, Georgetown. The Vigilance Magistrate’s Court, which houses the head office of the East Demerara Magisterial District, is currently housed in a two-storey wooden building in the compound of the Vigilance Police Station.
This Magisterial District also consists of the Sparendaam, Cove and John, Mahaica, and Mahaicony Magistrate’s Court. The Vigilance Magistrate’s Court was the first court in that district to be equipped with audio-visual recording including a camera, monitors, smart television, microphone, a surround system, a reliable internet connection, and Skype.
In 2016, the Judiciary demolished the ageing building which had housed the Sparendaam Magistrate’s Court which is situated in the compound of the Sparendaam Police Station. The court was re-commissioned in February 2017.
When this was done, its quota of Magistrates increased from one to two. The fully air-conditioned building has washroom facilities, briefing rooms for witnesses, and a prisoners’ holding area, which boasts tight security features such as sturdy grillwork on its lower flat.
In 2017, the Judiciary opened the Upper Demerara Magisterial District – the country’s tenth Magisterial District. In early 2020, it commissioned the Diamond/Golden Grove Magistrates’ Courts. Before the opening of this court, which costs $132 million, the Providence Magistrates’ Courts served the entire East Bank of Demerara corridor from Agricola to Timehri.
The Judiciary has also commissioned a Drug Treatment and Rehabilitation Court and a Children’s Court which are both housed in the same building with the Georgetown Magistrates’ Courts. There are also specialised courtrooms to hear sexual offences cases in each county.
The Judiciary has been praised for decentralising the magistracy given the country’s geographical layout, which makes travelling and communication very challenging at times.