ACTING Chief Magistrate, Melissa Robertson-Ogle, yesterday confirmed that the Magistrates’ Association of Guyana met with Minister of Home Affairs Mr. Clement Rohee and Commissioner of Police Mr. Henry Greene last Monday evening, as was requested by the Association in an effort to avert any hiccups in the administration of justice.
Robertson-Ogle, speaking exclusively with the Chronicle, said the Magistrates’ Association had called for the meeting following the recent criminal attacks on Magistrate Nigel Hawke and his wife.
The Acting Chief Magistrate said the results of that meeting with Rohee and Greene, which was held about 18:00 hrs Monday evening with a number of Magistrates, yielded “favourable” results. “It was very amicable and very hopeful,” she said.
According to Robertson-Ogle, the Minister as well as the Commissioner undertook to provide Magistrate Hawke with additional security, and after speaking with Hawke yesterday, she said he confirmed that these were indeed provided.
Robertson-Ogle said she did not wish to disclose further details of the meeting she had with the Minister and Commissioner but may do so after she meet with her colleagues in the near future.
She added that various magistrates would be present at their monthly meeting this Saturday and the Association would thereafter determine whether or not they would release another press statement on the issue.
Had the Magistrates’ Association not receive any sort of satisfaction at the meeting, Robertson-Ogle said as a start, Magistrates would have chosen not to sit their courts.
Meanwhile, a source told the Guyana Chronicle that at the meeting, the Magistrates made a number of requests as it relates to their security.
The source said among the requests made were the need to have personal bodyguards and security guards at their homes.
In addition, the Association also requested armed policemen and women in the courts over which they preside.
As a result, the source said heightened security measures were put in place from yesterday around the courts with an officer scanning every person that went through the Georgetown Magistrate’s court gate.
The source added that the back gate which gives the public access to the other courts in Jainarine Singh’s building may also be closed, except to prisoners. A police rank will also be present in that building.
On Monday last, an emergency meeting was called by the Magistrates’ Association in Robertson-Ogle’s Chamber and a number of Magistrates attended along with a representative of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) ‘A’ Division, Ms Maxine Graham.
Magistrate Robertson-Ogle had told reporters that no courts on the West Bank Demerara and on the East Coast were being held subsequent to the criminal attacks on Hawke.
The Magistrate had mentioned that the Association was “weary” of making complaints but nothing has so far been done for them as it relates to their security.
A press statement from the Association had the following to say:
“There is grave concern among all Magistrates at this time especially in light of repeated attempts for the authorities to address the burning issue of security for Magistrates vis-à-vis other judicial officers.
“A detailed security memorandum was prepared by the Association since October 11, 2009, and sent to the Honourable Chancellor of the Judiciary and a copy was later forwarded to the Commissioner of Police. To date, no action has been taken with regards to any of the recommendations therein.
“Magistrates at first instance deal with 90 per cent of the criminal proceedings and as a consequence, we are a constant target of criminal aggression. Magistrates, and in some instances members of their family have been threatened, abused and attacked in and out of the Court Room by criminal litigants and their associates. This must not be allowed to continue”.
Magistrate Hawke and his lawyer wife, Donnelle, were robbed in their Section ‘B’ Non Pariel, East Coast Demerara, home by a lone gunman with an AK-47 assault rifle in the early hours of Monday morning.
Hawke told this newspaper yesterday that an armed guard was posted at his residence from 15:00 hrs.
He added that after the incident on Monday night, a policeman was stationed at his house and the police also patrolled the area every hour.
The ranks in the mobile patrol were backed-up by members of a neighbourhood policing group.
Magistrate Hawke said he learnt that several suspects were ‘picked up’ by the Police for questioning since the robbery at his home.
He noted that the incident has left him and his wife shaken and he is hoping to resume work shortly.
Hawke pointed out that so far he is pleased with the efforts that are being made to beef up security at his home, the courts and in general for magistrates. (Additional reporting by Michel Outridge)