With the establishment of four new courthouses this year and another slated for 2019, the justice sector is likely to see a significant reduction in backlog cases, some dating back to the early 2000s.
This announcement came yesterday when Minister of Finance, Winston Jordon, during his Budget 2019 speech, revealed government’s plan to plug $3.6B in the justice sector. The allocation will see a new courthouse being constructed in Region One.
Already, courthouses have been set up in Grove/Diamond, Region Four; Bartica, Region Seven; Mahdia, Region Eight and Kwakwani, Region Ten. Minister Jordon emphasized that these courthouses will support government’s collective efforts to reduce backlog cases.
To ensure the new and existing courthouses are functioning effectively, the Minister said that support will be given for an increased number of magistrates and judges.
In addition, the Commissioners of the Law Reform Commission are being identified and once fully constituted and operational, the Commission is anticipated to commence its critical role in updating the laws of Guyana in 2019.
During the 100th sitting of the National Assembly, the Finance Minister indicated that continued investments are be made in the justice sector as it is the legal framework that serves to enforce contracts, protect our rights and provide for our safety, among other key features of a modern society.
In other words, he said, the rule of law serves as the backbone for any society.
Other investments in this sector include the passage of the Juvenile Justice Bill which seeks to update Guyana‘s juvenile justice system to be consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, with the aim of guaranteeing juveniles access to legal assistance, re-insertion and diversion programmes, and providing children and adolescents to be accountable for their violations of the law.
The new law incorporates diversionary measures, court appearances, sentencing, a Juvenile Justice Committee and support facilities such as a halfway house.
According to the Finance Minister, a costing of the implementation of this Act includes training and the establishment of a halfway house, for which the Government will seek to identify suitable land in 2019.
Furthermore, Minister Jordon said Government will be expanding legal aid access in 2019, including legal assistance in the defence of minor, non-violent offenders, as well as increasing the use of restorative justice.
A draft Restorative Justice Bill has already been submitted to the Attorney General‘s Chambers for review. The establishment of a restorative justice office will be made and some 1,200 persons across the sector will be trained in restorative justice.
The sum allocated for the justice sector represents an increase of $2.6M more than 2018 budget.