UNDER strict COVID-19 health guidelines, the January session of the Demerara Criminal Assizes will open today at the High Court in Georgetown, and several high-profile cases are on the list for trial.
There are 342 cases listed to be heard.
Madam Justice Jo-Ann Barlow, Justice Brassington Reynolds and Justice Navindra Singh have been rostered to preside during this session.
The list includes 67 cases for murder, 15 for manslaughter, 171 rape- related matters and other cases such as abduction, wounding, robbery under arms, possession of narcotics and stealing a child.
Muslim scholar Nezaam Ali, who is currently serving a 45-year sentence for raping a nine-year-old boy, is among the high-profile cases on the list.
Ali will go on trial for eight additional counts of sexually abusing eight boys. The crimes were allegedly committed between 2011 and 2012 and includes sexual activity with a child under 16 years and sexual activity with a child by abusing a position of trust.
Another well-known case is that of former Bishops’ High School teacher Coen Jackson, who is set to go on trial for engaging in sexual activity with a child under the age of 16, while being in a position of trust. He is currently out on bail.
Additionally, for the capital offence of murder, Regan Rodrigues, called ‘Grey Boy,’ will go on trial for the murder of political activist Courtney Crum-Ewing. The bullet-riddled body of Crum-Ewing was found at Third Avenue, Diamond New Scheme, East Bank Demerara, on March 10, 2015. The 40-year-old was shot twice to the temple, once to the back of the head and twice to the stomach.
Mark Lowchee called “Mark Lee” is also expected to face trial for the September 21, 2003 murder of Collis DeAbreu at Fifth and Light Streets, Alberttown, Georgetown.
Meanwhile, the ceremonial opening of the assizes has been suspended because of the pandemic.
In an effort to balance public health and safety imperatives with the need for continuing access to justice and openness, practice-direction protocols have been put in place for the smooth and safe resumption of criminal jury trials.
This practice direction shall operate together with the constitution and other laws, the COVID-19 Emergency Measures of the Ministry of Health and the relevant practice directions issued by the Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards last year.
The objective of this practice direction is to preserve the right of the accused to a fair trial while maintaining the integrity of the judicial process.
It will also ensure that jury trials and court practices are designed to minimise the exposure of judges, jurors, court staff, the accused, witnesses, attorneys, members of the media and the public, to infection.