Second Sexual Offences Court to open this month end
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has said that the agency is eyeing April 29 for the opening of the second Sexual Offences Court.This is according to sources attached to the agency.The new court will be opened in Region Five (Mahaica-Berbice) and would be the second of its kind in the country.In November 2017, when the first Sexual Offences Court opened, plans were announced to construct similar structures in Berbice and Essequibo in an effort to reduce the increased incidence of such cases.In declaring the court open, acting Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards drew reference to statistics which have shown that sexual offences have been on the rise both regionally and locally.She pointed out, “When we look at 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. So if half of the list comprised sexual offences, it meant that the other indictable offences like robbery and rape took second place…that is something we have to address”.The acting Chancellor reminded that sexual offences affect victims emotionally, psychologically and physically and those effects could be both long or short term and it could also affect the development of the victims. These victims, she said, require specialist treatment on the part of everyone concerned, be it the police, investigators, medical practitioners, NGOs, prosecution or the court.During the last quarter of 2018, Police statistics showed that rape cases have increased.Top Cop Leslie James told the media that rape cases had increased by seven per cent, with 202 cases reported in 2018 compared to 189 cases in 2017.The Sexual Offences Court was birthed out of the Sexual Offences Act 2010, which was spearheaded by former Human Services and Education Minister Priya Manickchand. The former Minister had led what was then called the “Stamp it Out” campaign in 2010 which saw widespread consultations around the country with regards to sexual offences and other major human rights issues facing Guyana.A Sexual Offences Court is different from other courtrooms as it includes features which will make victims more comfortable while testifying against their attackers.