No seating for the Press


By George Barclay
ALL rape cases being tried in Georgetown at present are being conducted in camera, whether or not the victim is a child or an adult.This is due to the fact that the young judges at the sessions have opted for the in camera sittings and the banning of the Press from the proceedings.
For those who have been accustomed to enter courts in the past where the older and more experienced judges have had causes to conduct cases in camera without clearing the court of the press, attempted to do likewise, by entering the courts. Marshals would then point to the door and declare that it was the judge’s instructions that the Press be removed.
Now, the Press people in Demerara are not only banned from the courts during the in camera sittings sometimes when all the courts are doing rape cases, but unlike the past, members of the Press, apart from the Court of Appeal and the Chief Magistrate’s Court, Georgetown, no longer have press tables to accommodate them. They have to jostle with members of the public for seats on the benches in the gallery.
One day, after a judge had asked me to leave a seat on a chair not far from his clerk, I enquired from him who was the person responsible for issuing chairs in the Court to the Press and he told me “no one can direct me how to use my court.”
The press is not admitted until the jury arrives with the verdict and an announcement is about to be made.
In such a case, all that a judge would do is to free the accused or to pass sentence dependent on the verdict.
This lack of information in rape cases is insufficient for a journalist to write a proper story after hearing only the verdict.
We of the Press wish that the young judges would follow the footstep of their elder colleagues when dealing with journalists remembering always that they too are professionals.
A rape case should have ended yesterday but this did not happen because the accused, who was on bail, did not turn up and the judge had to postpone her summing-up to tomorrow.
A call is being made to give the Press proper seating accommodation and to conduct rape cases in such a way that they will be saved from relying too heavily on hearsay evidence.