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First Sexual Offences Court launched in Guyana

The Supreme Court of Judicature, commonly known as the High Court, on Monday saw the opening of a Sexual Offences Court- a victim centred court which aims to diminish the upsurge in occurrences in sexual related offences.
Acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards, at the launch in the presence of members of the Bar Association, Lawyers and the media, among others, asserted that not only will the court be properly staffed but personnel training will also be provided so as to ensure qualified persons are there to deal with the relevant cases.

“[Two categories of Trinidadians] are willing to come on board to train – one is a sexual abuse specialist (children), a psychologist and as well as criminal law judge involved with sexual offence matters that helped to shape our guidelines and legislation,” she posited.
The courtroom is also expected to be adequately equipped with a victim support unit.

“We have a panel of eminent judges…a special room to testify and a panel of support staff and an energetic Chief Justice… there will be no shortage of personnel to do the work,” she explained.

Justice Cummings-Edwards further noted that there are intentions of having this aspect of the court launched in the other counties –namely Berbice and Essequibo.

“…and we know that sexual offences do have a far-reaching impact on the victims whether they be adults or children, vulnerable groups,” she said.

The Justice also emphasised on the need for such a court, placing the spotlight on statistics.
“… more than 50 per cent of the cases for the Demerara Assizes over the last two sessions showed us that sexual offences comprised half of the list.”

She emphasised that the entire process from investigation to the final adjudication and the entire criminal justice system as a whole must be careful how they approach this work. She believes if caution is not taken, secondary trauma or secondary victimisation could be inflicted on victims and witnesses of sexual offences and this is something that should be avoided.

The Sexual Offences Court was initiated as result of the Sexual Offences Act 2010, under the directive of former Human Services and Education Minister, Priya Manickchand. It was part of a significant regime of accomplishments in the Social/Legal sector of the People’s Progressive Party Civic Government, which included an array of new legislations in relation to children, the establishment of a family division of the High Court and a host of other flagship initiatives of a similar nature.

The campaign which was at the time called “Stamp it Out” saw widespread consultations around the country, as regards sexual offences and other major human rights issues facing Guyana.

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