Method of prosecution cannot remain stagnant in evolving society – AG

…failed system causes citizens to take law into their own hands

Legal Affairs Minister and Attorney General, Anil Nandlall has strongly positioned that in an evolving society, the way in which prosecutions are conducted cannot be stagnated if the country intends to upkeep the mandate of protecting the interest of its people.

Attorney General Anil Nandlall

At the launch of the Certificate in Advocacy and Evidence for Summary Courts Prosecutors Course at the University of Guyana on Monday evening, Nandlall underscored that justice is a multi-faceted instrument.
“In a dynamic and over-dynamic society, the way we do prosecution cannot remain stagnant and static. Oftentimes, we hear about the rights of the accused, defence counsels and they are fundamental rights central to the administration of justice, that are accorded to the accused person…But justice is not a one-way streak. Justice has two sides. It has the public’s interest, the victim’s interest, the State’s interest – all amalgamated and become the responsibility of the prosecutor to preserve, protect and advance,” said the Attorney General.
He outlined that when prosecutors are ill-equipped, not due to incompetence but simply due to lack of tools or training, then discharging the functions of the office with the degree of rectitude required is a challenge and the justice system is failed. This trickles down to citizens taking matters into their own hands, causing a descent from civilisation into anarchy.
“Every time a litigant leaves the precincts of a court feeling that he did not have a fair hearing or he did not get due process or justice was not meted out to him, then I daresay that the system would have failed that citizenry. When you multiply that feeling across the length and breadth of any society, then you have a society that feels disenchanted with the system that is funded by their taxpayers’ dollars, that they have established and consented to be governed by, not protecting and safeguarding their interest…When that happens, there is this great and dangerous temptation to take the law into their own hands.”
According to him, credit should be given to the extant pandemic situation for bringing about changes that would not have arisen otherwise, making the discharge of these functions easier.
“We live in an evolving world. We live in a society where expectations change, standards improve. The justice system itself has evolved dramatically from colonial times to now. They way that we’re meeting in the court system has radically transformed, precipitated by a medical catastrophe but have gifted us an opportunity because of its convenience, expediency and the costs saved in the process.”
The Certificate in Advocacy and Evidence for Summary Courts Prosecutors is the product of a joint initiative between the Attorney General’s Chambers and Ministry of Legal Affairs, Government of Guyana (GoG), and the University of Guyana, to produce professionals who are specially trained to prosecute matters in Guyana’s Magistrates Courts.
The AG underscored that when persons graduate from this programme, they will have a “very solid foundation” in discharging the role they were recruited for. In an environment where many Police prosecutors are untrained in the area of law and have been serving with “distinction”, Nandlall welcomed this discipline in bolstering capacity.
“Based on our colonial history, we inherited a system whereby Police prosecutors have been prosecuting and continue to prosecute in the Magistrate’s Court of our country and indeed, in the West Indies. That system has obtained since Independence. The Police officers who have served over the decades, have acquitted themselves with distinction in the discharge of their duties, despite the fact that they were not trained in the study of law.”
“They were essentially laymen with very abbreviated courses of study and they were pitted against seasoned lawyers of great eminence, experience and forensic skill. They have been able, over the past decades, to serve our criminal justice system well,” he detailed.
Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Yonette Cummings-Edwards also lauded the range of topics being covered under this programme.
Cummings-Edwards stated, “This is an investment in knowledge that would pay huge benefits or huge interests…Prosecutors will benefit tremendously because they will be taught a skill and art that is not generally given or taught. It comes through learning and experience”. (G12)