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Plea deals, modern ways of prosecuting cases now in place

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…as Govt passes new Criminal Procedure Bill
…Arbitration Bill also passed to allow for domestic & int’l arbitration

Attorney General Anil Nandall, SC

The Criminal Procedure Bill (2023) has been passed in the National Assembly, paving the way for more modern ways of prosecuting cases, including allowing for victim impact statements and plea-bargaining.
Rising to present the Criminal Procedure (Plea Discussion, Plea Agreement and Assistance) Bill, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, said the bill is intended to replace the Criminal Procedure Act Chapter 10:09.
Nandlall noted that the bill will make the justice system more efficient, and cut down on the need, where it is unnecessary, for a full trial; since plea agreements can be reached. This will expedite the pace at which the justice system works.
The bill also provides for victims to provide impact statements, a staple in many countries.

Opposition MP Khemraj Ramjattan

“Part Three of the Bill imposes a duty on the prosecution to inform the victim of his or her right to provide a victim impact statement. It requires a victim to provide a victim impact statement explaining the physical or emotional harm, financial loss, or other impact the offence has had on the victim,” he explained. “Additionally, this part allows for the particulars of the victim impact statement. Clause 14 is restrictive, as it restricts the content of the victim impact statement,” he explained.
Nandlall detailed other parts of the bill, such as Clause 15, which allows relatives of victims to give statements on their behalf.
Additionally, businesses that have suffered a crime at the hands of the accused can also give impact statements.

The Criminal Procedure Bill (2023) is intended to expedite the passage of cases through the justice system

“According to Clause 14, a victim impact statement shall not include a restatement of the offence, as that is obviously not necessary. Criticism of the accused person, that is not necessary. Or the victim’s opinion about the type of severity of the sentence to be imposed, that is not the prerogative of the victim,” he explained.
Members of the Opposition, such as Alliance For Change Member of Parliament Khemraj Ramjattan, did raise some objections to the notion of plea bargaining. Among his contentions was that the option of plea bargaining can be a disincentive for investigating police to do their jobs in a thorough manner.
“So, we have to understand that this is a major concern, when you have an arrangement that dangles before you a plea-bargaining scenario whereby the expectation is that they’re going to plead guilty. Let’s write up a couple statements and so on.
“It can realize now a police culture of just having the basic tenuous level of evidence. And they just want you to charge…and that’s very important,” Ramjattan also said.
The bill, which is divided into five (5) Parts and contains thirty-eight (38) Clauses and one (1) Schedule, was nevertheless passed in the National Assembly.

Arbitration Bill
Also passed in the National Assembly on Friday was the Arbitration Bill, which contains key provisions from the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on Arbitration, as well as from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) model.
Previously, Nandlall had also revealed that two law firms, Arnold and Porter out of Washington D.C., and Gibson and Dunn out of New York and London, had reviewed the bill and had made certain recommendations that were accepted and included.
While presenting the bill, Nandlall pointed out that the government has done quite a bit of groundwork to prepare for the bill, ranging from consultations, the establishment of an arbitration unit, and the holding of several training workshops to build capacity.
“We began first a consultation exercise in Guyana, and we consulted widely with various stakeholders; organizations, including the Bar Association, the Private Sector Commission and the judiciary; and we enlisted their input,” he detailed.
“Then, sir, we hired a consultant, Professor Justice Courtney Abel, who did a workshop titled ‘Guyana: the next arbitration hub’. And that workshop was held jointly with the Attorney General’s Chambers, and we invited participation from across the Caribbean, and we also received a lot of inputs from that exercise,” he detailed.
According to Nandlall, the intention was to ensure the law could be up and ready as soon as possible. He explained that the bill would apply to both domestic and international arbitration, ensuring that Guyana can also attract arbitration cases.
“The main objectives of the bill are to encourage the use and facilitation of arbitration when solving disputes, obtain fair and speedy resolutions of disputes, and recognize and enforce arbitral awards. This stipulates that the law will apply to domestic and international arbitration when the seat of arbitration is in Guyana,” he explained.
“This part also provides that the court shall not intervene in arbitration proceedings, except as provided by the Act. Additionally, this part provides that certain functions relating to arbitration assistance and supervision shall be performed by the appointing authority for the purpose of the Act,” Nandlall explained.
The bill was eventually passed, after being considered in committee.
Arbitration is a form of alternative dispute resolution that allows for parties, especially companies involved in a dispute, to avoid the court steps and come to an agreement that is overseen by one or more arbitrators, who are empowered to make legally binding decisions on the matter.
In keeping with its commitment to create a modern platform for arbitration as an effective method of settling commercial and other disputes in the country, the Government of Guyana has already established an Arbitration Unit, which
comprises representatives from various stakeholder organizations. These include Jamela A. Ali, SC, from the Bar Association of Guyana; Attorney Suriyah Sabsook from the Berbice Bar Association; Norman McLean from the Private Sector Commission (PSC); and from the AG’s Chambers, Deputy Chief Parliamentary Counsel Joann Bond and Deputy Solicitor General Deborah Kumar, with AG Nandlall as the Chairman. (G3)

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