Low staff capacity affecting efficiency of magistracy

Supreme Court 2015 annual report
Low staff capacity and inadequate salaries are the main causes of administrative inefficiencies within the Georgetown Magistrates courtSupreme Court of Judicature, particularly the magistracy.
The Annual Report of the Supreme Court of Judicature for year ending December 31, 2015, was presented to the National Assembly last Wednesday. The report was submitted by acting Registrar, Rashid Mohamed, and tabled by Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General, Basil Williams.
According to the report, the various sections under the judicature generally keeps and maintains registers and other records that are relevant to its functions, however there are a number of issues affecting such practices within the magistracy.
It was outlined that while all courts perform the same functions as those of the Georgetown Magistrates’ Office, the smaller number of staff in the other offices has resulted in problems, especially in the area of accounting.
“This can be clearly seen in the Auditor General reports over the years citing several instances of irregularities due to lack of proper record keeping and general accountability. This problem needs to be addressed and can start by having a proper staff assessment since the present structure was designed decades ago when the workload was not that great as it is today”.
The report stated that one of the problems the Magistrates’ Courts faced was the failure to reconcile banks, however, this situation has seen tremendous improvements of recent.
Moreover, it was further highlighted that the ability to keep staff both at the Supreme Court and the Magistrates’ Courts is another problem affecting the efficiency of the system. Poor salaries were recognised as the driving factor behind this and as such, it was recommended that these matters be resolved immediately to ensure efficiency of the country’s judicature.
“A solution to these problems and many of the other administrative problems must be found so as to ensure accountability, maximum efficiency and the delivery of justice in a timely manner by the judicial system.”
The report went on to talk about expeditious and timely trials, noting there must be respect for and compliance with the schedules which enhance the prompt implementation of legal procedures. Cases should be processed in a manner that facilitates expeditious, economical and fair resolution of disputes, the report added.
The Magistracy consists of seven Magisterial Districts, even though the law requires nine. These are the Georgetown Magisterial District (which also has responsibilities for the Rupununi District); Berbice Magisterial District; Corentyne Magisterial District; East Demerara Magisterial District; Essequibo Magisterial District (which has responsibilities for the North West Magisterial District); West Demerara Magisterial District and West Berbice Magisterial District.
A total of 52 courts are within these districts and sits on statutory and special days. The Interior District of North West Rupununi, sits quarterly for two weeks, while most courts sit daily and others sit weekly. While it is authorised that these districts are served by 21 magistrates, the need for this number to be increased has been recognised.
“The authorised strength for magistrate needed to be revised since the workload is becoming increasingly voluminous. Cognisance is being taken of the expanding population in the new housing areas which has led the Administration to have a new building, housing courtrooms to be built in 2016 at Sparendaam, East Coast Demerara.”
Additionally it was disclosed that plans are afoot to construct a court house in Diamond, East Bank Demerara, to unburden the workload of the magistrate at the Providence Court.