After six years of providing millions of dollars in financial aid, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is disappointed in the state of Guyana’s court system. In one of its latest reports, the IDB highlighted that Guyana suffers from low human capital, which is reflected in the judicial system. The Bank said that it is difficult to attract well-qualified people to the judicial system given low wages and very few (if any) incentives. It said that this has resulted in slow and delayed justice with a backlog of cases and pre-trial detentions that can last up to four years.
The Bank pointed out that Magistrate Courts in the interior districts are held every three months, as there is currently only one magistrate assigned to these courts. It said that one of the magistrates noted that those coming before the court are not always from the area; therefore cases need to be tended to expeditiously.
Compounding this issue, the IDB said, is the fact that people in the interior are a bit nomadic, which creates serious issues for the availability of witnesses to testify in court. It was also noted that the interior courts tend to get blamed for the backlog in cases but sometimes the lawyers’ tactics of frequent and unnecessary adjournments and prosecutors’ tactics of padding their witness lists are contributing factors to delayed justice and a clogged court system.
Further to this, the financial institution said that there is a legal aid program in Guyana, but it does not extend to remote rural areas; therefore, accused persons in these locations have to find and pay for defense lawyers out of pocket. The Bank pointed out that bail must be recovered in Georgetown and sometimes the monies to be recovered were less than the cost of traveling to Georgetown, so often people do not bother to recover it.
Additionally , the IDB noted that the Attorney General, whose office coordinates the administration of justice in Guyana, asked USAID for support to assess the entire justice sector, including the public prosecutor, police, police prosecutors, the judiciary, and prisons to see how they can improve the systems as the new coalition government works “to restore the rule of law in Guyana.” The IDB said that improvements need to be made as soon as possible since “the system is in a terrible state.