Work on sentencing guidelines nearing completion – AG

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
Attorney General Anil Nandlall

The government is close to completing work on sentencing guidelines, a project that has been funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-funded ‘Support for Criminal Justice’ programme.

This was revealed by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Anil Nandlall, SC, during a recently held sitting of the National Assembly. While he was speaking on the topic of the recently passed Criminal Procedure Bill (2023), he also explained that guidelines for sentencing aimed at ensuring uniformity in the criminal justice system, is close to completion.

“Permit me to inform you that we have sentencing guidelines that are now almost completed. Under the same Support for Criminal Justice System. The delay came from the judiciary itself, because we hired a consultant on the part of the government.”

“But the executive cannot impose on the judiciary, something like sentencing guidelines. They have to actually execute it. We took about two years before we got full judicial cooperation,” AG Nandlall added.

Now that this judicial cooperation has been received, he explained that it will soon be completed and gazetted as subsidiary legislation. With the implementation of these guidelines, Nandlall noted that there would be “consistency and uniformity in sentencing.”

“We got that now and that document is now being concluded. And will be gazette as subsidiary legislation. That will address (any) sentencing concerns. So, you wouldn’t have one Judge sentencing someone for 110 years. And another one sentencing, (like) circumstances, for 10 years.”

In 2022, the Government and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) had signed a loan agreement for intervention in Guyana’s justice sector. This agreement would finance the Support for Criminal Justice System (SCJS) programme.

The SCJS programme is aimed at addressing institutional issues which affect the country’s criminal justice system. Part of the loan went towards consulting services, aimed at technical support for sentencing guidelines, encompassing diversion and alternative sentencing options.

In a judgement delivered in May 2020 in the case of Linton Pompey vs the Director of Public Prosecutions of Guyana, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) had stressed the need for sentencing guidelines to be developed and published by the Judiciary of Guyana, noting that the absence of such is a disservice to trial Judges.

Last year July, Nandlall had said during his weekly programme of ‘Issues In The News’ that consultations had already been done with most of the stakeholders, including the practicing bar, the Guyana Police Force (GPF), and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Chambers.

Nandlall had also acknowledged that inconsistent sentencing is one of the issues that he and his Cabinet colleagues are most often bombarded with when they go out to communities to engage citizens. Nevertheless, the Legal Affairs Minister had posited that while he cannot influence the Judiciary, a formal set of guidelines would allow the Judiciary to hand down more uniform sentences.

“I repeatedly explain that the Judiciary is independent, but that there are certain principles that govern the way sentences are formulated. It has to do with the gravity of the crime, the extent of the cruelty. It has to do with the prevalence of the offence. It has to do with extenuating or aggravating circumstances.”

“It has to do with the age of the victim or the age of the accused person. It may be influenced by the character and reputation of either the deceased or the accused persons. All these are factors that have accumulated over the years, that have formed themselves into guidelines that judges ought to adopt in handing out these sentences,” Nandlall noted.