By Feona Morrison
In a judgment delivered Thursday which can ultimately set precedent for imposing jail sentences in sexual offences-related cases, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) pointed to the alarmingly high statistics as it relates to sexual offences against children in Guyana.
What is even worse, is that CCJ Judge, Peter Jamadar said the situation in Berbice indicates a “crisis.” With regard to the state of affairs in Demerara, he underscored that it is an “extremely disturbing trend.”
The judgment was delivered in the case of a 57-year-old father of 12, Linton Pompey vs. the Director of Public Prosecutions of Guyana. Pompey was convicted on September 21, 2015 of three sexual offences against a 14-year-old girl- two counts of rape and a count of sexual assault.
The trial Judge sentenced him to 15 and 17 years in prison, respectively on the first and second rape charges. A sentence of five years was given on the sexual activity charge. The sentences were ordered to run consecutively.
Pompey was therefore sentenced to a total of 37 years behind bars. He appealed to the CCJ after the Court of Appeal of Guyana affirmed his conviction and sentence.
The CCJ, only allowed the convicted rapist to appeal against his sentence.
In its majority ruling, the regional court reduced his sentence to 17 years on the basis that among other things, the Trial Judge erred when she failed to sufficiently consider that the resulting combined sentences “would be excessively high.”
In reducing the convict’s sentence, the CCJ affirmed the sentences of the Trial Judge; the court, however, ordered that the prison terms are to run concurrently.
Kindly view a press release regarding the CCJ’s judgment here: https://ccj.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/Media-Release-Pompey-v-The-DPP.pdf
What is noteworthy, the Judge said, is that these statistics are only for cases filed and pending in the Guyana criminal justice system. And that the regional court has no evidence of general reporting statistics, or of under-reporting trends for Guyana for alleged sexual offenses against all children, minors and vulnerable young persons.
After analyzing certain data which will be expounded on in this story, Justice Jamadar held, “If Guyana follows international norms in this regard for developing societies, such as those in the Caribbean, then, on the basis of presumed under-reporting, the problem likely assumes a magnitude that is endemic, pathological, and potentially destructive of the fabric of Guyanese society.”
For the purpose of properly adjudicating Pompey’s matter, the CCJ requested from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, statistics on the breakdown of the the number of criminal case and their relationship to sexual offences concerning minors for Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo.
Justice Jamadar said that the information was very disturbing. He noted that in Demerara, from 2014 to 2019, on average, out of the total number of criminal cases filed, 54.29 percent constituted sexual offences cases, and of those 72.12 percent constituted sexual offences cases involving minors.
According to Justice Jamadar, the percentage of sexual offences cases involving minors as a percentage of all sexual offences cases, has been increasing over time from 2014 to 2019.
In fact, he said, “For the years 2014 to 2016, the number of cases involving minors as a percentage of all sexual offences cases was 67.72. However, for the years 2017 to 2019, the corresponding percentage was 76.53. That change represents an average three-year increase of 8.81 percent (2017 to 2019) over the earlier three-year period (2014 to 2016).”
The CCJ Judge made it clear that the foregoing is an “extremely disturbing trend.”
But this is just the tip of the iceberg.
The situation in Berbice was significantly worse, Justice Jamadar pointed out in his written judgment. Actually, he explained that the percentage of sexual offences cases against minors, as a percentage of all sexual offences cases for 2014 to 2019, is as follows: 84.87, 89.3, 94.43, 89.1, 89.03, and 97.27.
The Judge pinpointed that the six year average (2014 to 2019) of sexual offences cases against minors as a percentage of all sexual offences cases in Berbice, is 90.17. And the corresponding three-year average for 2017 to 2019, was 91.8 percent.
He added, “Indeed, for 2019 the percentages for progressive Assizes sittings were as follows: February 97.4 percent, June 94.4 percent, and October 100 percent. This is indicative of a “crisis.”
Meanwhile, in Essequibo, the trends fall between those in Demerara and in Berbice, though closer to those in Demerara. For the years 2014 to 2019, on average, out of the total number of criminal cases filed, 55.86 percent constituted sexual offences cases, and of those 73.86 percent constituted sexual offences cases involving minors.
As a matter of fact, Justice Jamadar explained, “For the three-year period 2017 to 2019, the number of cases involving minors as a percentage of all sexual offences cases was 77.8, an increase of 10.88 percent over the corresponding 2014 to 2016 three-year period (average of 69.92 percent).”
Another CCJ Judge, Maureen Rajnauth-Lee in her judgment, noted these statistics reveal that sexual offences and indeed sexual offences against children are prevalent and occupy much of the work of the criminal courts in Guyana.
She made reference to the Judgment of the CCJ’s President, Justice Adrian Saunders in this very case. The court’s President noted that over the last three years, sexual offences in Guyana have accounted for more than one half of all indictable cases set down for trial and sexual offences against children comprised almost 80% of those cases.
The statistics, Justice Rajnauth-Lee noted, revealed that for 2019, there were 648 indictable sexual offence cases (more than one half of all indictable cases), set down for trial in Demerara. Of that number, 488 or 75% were sexual offence cases against children.