Evidence (Amendment) Bill 2013 – Bill No. 23/20133042 16 Jan, 2014
Mr. Ramjattan: Mr. Speaker, the purpose underlying this Bill is obviously one that must be supported by the Alliance For Change (AFC), largely because it has the efficacies of ensuring that there are going to be speedier trials in criminal matters and of course, as mentioned by the learned Attorney General, civil matters too.
The entire purpose has to do with the law being made here by the parliamentarians, adopting an approach that that which is normally hearsay evidence will be permitted and allowed in a court of law simply because it comes from a document purporting to be from a bacteriologist, pathologist or a medical practitioner, satisfying certain other qualifications, like in a medical report, something to the effect that it must be within 42 hours and purporting to come from the medical report of a qualified doctor.
It is especially important too that this category is widened. We fully support that, but I want to make a caution here and a care that when documentary hearsay evidence is now going to be permissible at trials from which we can see very long terms of imprisonment, we have to ensure that the integrity first of all of the person that is writing on that document, who is going to purport to be effectively that scientific officer, that medical practitioner or handwriting or finger print expert, that that person is of the quality whose hearsay and account that is put into that document is on unassailable. That is the important point here.
I want to bring to your attention something that started off today’s proceedings. Mr. Felix was making mention about a certain incidence in which a certain baton was being pushed up a certain person. In answer to the question we have, that I have from doctors that could be literally and colloquially what we call “goadie”. That is what I am talking about – the integrity of the system here.
One can have a document coming to the court; just as how that document came to the Parliament saying that the integrity is something that is very much questionable, stating that this was the handwriting.
I can relate only too recently in a very important will trial in court, in relations to the horse shoe matter... [Mr. Nandlall: Do not bring Mr. Ramkarran name here you know.]
Mr. Speaker: The matter is still...[Interruption]
Mr. Ramjattan: I am not going to bring the matter up, but what I am doing to say is, we have what is called a handwriting expert, which is local, as compared to that which is a Trinidadian come in, showing us how indeed one can get to the microscopic levels. It was a totally different scenario, when the experts that came... but what was very strange was that the experts had to come to Guyana. Whereas, this law now means that there will be expert here in Guyana, once he/she is called a scientific officer and it purports, his/her own could surpass the test and it could create some serious injustices.
So, we are urging that those who are going to be prescribed by the Hon. Attorney General or the Minister of Home Affairs, as members who are going to be classified as the scientific officers and those specialists, that we ensure that they have the integrity to begin with.
The personal integrity and also that they come from a system that has the systemic integrity to ensure 100% unassailability of what they purport to account in these reports. It is very important. I also want to make the final point that these documents have far-reaching effects to the extent that they could also be used for purposes political and I am urging [Interruption] No, just a minute. It has happened even in developed countries and there have been miscarriages of justice, Sir, in a lot of places where because of certain documents people have been literally hanged and it is important that we also pay caution to that. [Mr. Nandlall: Cite the case.] There was the Maguire Seven and Tottenham Six because of certain evidence that they were talking about, DNA and all kinds of other things plus confessions and there are books written about these things.
I am saying that we in Guyana, not that we want, as the learned speaker before me said that it is a bill that is brining Guyana up to 2014, that we can have all the bills to bring Guyana up to 2014, but if we do not enforce them to the extent that we are going to see some, at least, perfection in how they are executed we can have a lot of injustice being used with these kinds of documentary hearsay and when you call on the doctor or the scientific officer the next thing – as happened to me in some trials – ‘We cannot get the witness, the medical practitioner, for cross examination because he gone back to Cuba.’ When you now feel that he has given a wrong diagnosis or wrong medical report you want him for cross examination, the document stays, they give his opinion of the document but he is not up there for cross examination and what is left? It could be an injustice and I am urging that whatever can be done by both Home Affairs Minister and the Attorney General’s Chambers that at least those that I am talking about, those concerns that I am mentioning, are addressed. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. [Applause]
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