The appointment of new judges and the opening of night courts were just some of the measures the new administration had implemented since 2015 to address one of the biggest challenges facing the judicial system—case backlogs.
With those measures and others, the judiciary was able to break down the backlog from 10,000 cases to approximately 4500. In an effort to take this success to new heights, the government will be implementing a case management system.
According to Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Basil Williams, the sum of $20M was set aside from his proposed 2019 budgetary allocations to ensure the successful implementation of the system.
The Minister said, “Studies have shown that implementing Case Management Technologies in the Justice Sector result in at least a seven percent average rate of decrease of old civil, criminal and juvenile backlog. It even results in 15 percent productivity in the public sector. This case management system network is critical as it will allow key justice institutions to share information and access live data.”
Williams noted, too, that this network will connect probation services, the magistrate’s courts, legal aid, restorative justice, the high court, Director of Public Prosecution, police prosecutors, and the Prisons Service.
In an exclusive interview with the Guyana Standard, Williams explained the role of case management and how it is expected to transform the manner in which cases will be heard.
The Attorney General noted that a hearing is the first part of a trial process and case management involves setting a schedule of proceedings that will follow in the said process.
Williams said, “As you might be aware, litigation can have several stages depending on the nature of the case. For example, if you lodge a complaint with the court, the Judge or Magistrate will set a timeframe for you to file your arguments, for the defense to file their response, a deadline for evidence to be submitted or even a timeframe for interrogations. In short, the case has a strict schedule which must be followed so that the case can be completed in an effective manner.”
In the Magistrates’ court, the Legal Affairs Minister said that case management may be dealt with at the first hearing without the requirement for a specific case management hearing.
In the high court, he explained that the case management process begins at arraignment and may involve thereafter, a specific case management hearing, or several, after arraignment to give specific directions for how the trial will follow, especially directions in regard to vulnerable witnesses.
Where applicable, Williams noted that the parties are required to complete and submit the case management forms prior to the date being set for the proceedings. He said that applications at the case management are then heard in the high court for directions to be given on several areas which include attendance of a support person with the complainant at the trial; questioning of the complainant through the use of an intermediary or other communications specialists; and restrictions on disclosure.
The Minister noted that the magistrates’ court can make directions on the same issues in summary jurisdiction offence cases where an application is made by the prosecution.
Overall, Williams said that the order such a system will bring will not only be unprecedented, but transformative in the approach taken by judicial officers.