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The Court of Appeal (Amendment) Bill 2008 was yesterday described as a ‘recipe for disaster’ by Alliance for Change, Member of Parliament,Cheap Jerseys League, Khemraj Ramjattan, when the Bill was debated in the National Assembly.Attorney General, Doodnauth Singh, presented the Bill, which did not capture the support of the opposition parties.However, the PNCR has indicated its willingness to salvage the legislation, through its member, Clarissa Reihl, who stated yesterday that the party is prepared to discuss the Bill and make further changes.The Bill is seeking to provide for appeals by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) to the Court of Appeal and to the Caribbean Court of Justice for connected matters.This will also give the DPP the power to appeal any acquittal by judges in the High Court.Addressing the National Assembly last evening, Khemraj Ramjattan said that the amendment, which the government has introduced as part of continuing its criminal justice reform, ‘will only add to that mess.’“This government feels that its only obligation is to legislate because that mandate has been granted to (it). It fails to appreciate the other obligation it has– to pass laws which must improve the lives of its citizens.”This amendment, he added, will not improve the lives of citizens.“The lot of the accused will be made more horrifying and horrible and so too the lot of all those who are involved in the trial process: witnesses, police, juries and even Judges…the entire system.”Ramjattan pointed out to the National Assembly that the acquittal rates at present are ‘quite soaring’ but that is not due to the fact that the State does not have a right of appeal.“Now with this amendment the State will be given that right to appeal. It would be foolhardy to conclude that there will be more convictions and less acquittals.”More convictions, the AFC member said, will only happen when there is an improved quality of investigation of crime and a high quality of prosecution.Both these phases require a sustained effort at training the personnel, keeping abreast with the advances of technologies, having advocates at the trial process, who apart from articulating in a manner to convince a jury must also be sharp enough to counter the blocks of any good defense counsel, he added.“Improving and strengthening the policemen, prosecutors and prison would realise what this government should strive for and what the citizens want: a fair criminal justice system.”What was presented to Parliament yesterday, he added, are several ‘dangerous themes’ running through the legislation, which must give cause for concern.“In a 100 or more years of the common law jurisprudence the settled situation, the bedrock foundation of our criminal justice system, has been that a jury’s verdict of acquittal represented the limit of the power of the State to impose punishment upon a citizen.”He said that when the jury says ‘you are acquitted’ that was the limit.“No matter what wrong the prosecutors and the State might have felt occurred during the course of action, those words ‘jury acquittal’ was the limit.”This, Ramjattan said, was the ‘perfect’ balance and counter balance between the powers and resources of the State and the relative weakness of the individual within a democratic state.Clarissa Reihl, in her presentation to the National Assembly,Cheap Huarache Shoes For Men, told the House that the answer to rampant criminality is not to tighten the screws against the few who are caught by bringing ‘onerous’ and ‘oppressing’ legislation but by widening the net.“This can be done by enhancing police investigative skill, employ and maintain a core of competent prosecutors and appoint strong judges. She urged that political interference should be ceased at all levels of the criminal justice system.”The DPP, she added, is a powerful functionary in the Criminal Judicial System. “She has the dominion over all criminal cases in Guyana. She makes decisions to prosecute or not to prosecute and to vest her now with the right of appeal on acquittals in the High Court is to make her all powerful,” Reihl added.On the other side of the House, Anil Nandlall told the National Assembly that under the present law, when an accused person stands trial for a criminal offence before the High Court of Guyana,Jordan Sneakers For Sale, that vital component of the rule of law and the constitutional guarantee that all is equal before the law is absent.The proverbial scale of justice,Nike Roshe Run Online Shop, which at all times ought to be equally balanced between parties in legal proceedings, is tilted in favour of the defence, he said.Explaining the position that is taken by his party to amend the Bill, Nandlall said that whilst an accused person has a right of appeal against his conviction, the Prosecution has no right of appeal against the accused acquittal.“Throughout the trial,Wholesale Authentic Jerseys, the accused is presumed to be innocent. This common law presumption of innocence has received constitutional imprimatur and is guaranteed as a fundamental right by Article 144 of the Constitution.”A necessary corollary to the presumption of innocence, he added,Wholesale Jerseys Paypal, is the burden of proof.“The trial all doubts which may arise upon the evidence must be resolved in favour of the Defence and whenever there are two or more inferences which are to be drawn from the evidence presented the law compels that the inference most favourable to the defence is to be drawn,” he told the House.He pointed out that the standard of proof that devolves upon the Prosecution is proof beyond reasonable doubt.“But, whenever the accused is to prove his defence, the standard that is required of him is one which is merely on a balance of probabilities. A much lower standard than ‘beyond reasonable doubt’”The Bill, Nandlall explained, does not in any way take away or interfere with those protective facilities which the defence enjoys.“All that the Bill does is to confer upon the Prosecution, a right of appeal. And of course, this right of appeal can only be exercised at the conclusion of the trial. So that this Bill seeks to change nothing during the course of the trial.”After much debate in the National Assembly last evening the Bill was sent to a Select Committee for further consultation. (Tusika Martin)
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