Recording of Court Proceedings Bill 2014 – Bill No. 1/20143413 10 Feb, 2014
Mr. Bond: Mr. Speaker, the speaker before me focused much on promotions and demotions. I wish my friend would remember service. Service cuts across race, class and I daresay sex. The last time I checked this is a House not of egos but of service. Whether a Member is in the back bench or on the front bench all Members on this side of the House are allowed to serve, and serve the people they represent. I also daresay with the treatment given my good friend Mr. Bulkan I do not want to come to the front. I think he was better safe behind here. Mr. Speaker, I would miss my friend Ms. Kissoon.
If may say this Bill is a small step but in the right direction. From my first budget speech I proposed such measures and it is commendable that the Minster of Legal Affairs, who himself is an Attorney, headed not only my voice but those before me who had called for technological advances to be taken inside the courtroom.
It is my manner to be slow to criticise, and my criticisms usually take the form of recommendations as I believe in the Guyana context we have not all attained the maturity to understand that criticisms, more often than not, ought to be taken in full stride whether for adoption or reflection.
The Bill before this House, I daresay, appears to be a skeletal bill. As usual skeletons are without flesh and sinews and are more so desert dry. This Bill does not state who shall be the keeper of the record, does not state where the record must be kept, and there are no considerations, general or specific, given to protect the integrity of the record from the minute it is taken in the court to the time of request and delivery of a transcript.
Secondly, clause 3 of the Bill casually states that those proceedings will be recorded by any means. Surely it is not too hard to state that such records will be done electronically or manually, and to define and state the equipment that shall be used.
Thirdly, ‘as soon as practicable’ is in itself impracticable. I think that is the clause 4 – forgive me please - that states ‘as soon as practicable.’ That is itself impracticable in the Guyana context where inordinate delays are the norm. As soon as practicable could be six months to six years. Parliament cannot be laisser-faire, laws must be certain, laws must be definitive.
Fourthly, the system of court reporting proceedings is to minimise mistakes on the part of the bench as well as to capture viva voce without interposition of terminology or dialect from bench or bar. Though the Bill contemplates transcripts being made available sometime after the proceedings may have been concluded, I believe on that very day and date that written transcripts be presented and affidavits of truth, especially in criminal matters, be sown to by bench and bar and administrative staff.
The learned Attorney General did touch on the fact that the transcripts will be available as soon after, but it has to go further than its availability. Both bench and bar must attest to the correctness of the transcript at that particular date and time. This in itself would prevent an Attorney-at-Law on either side to come and say this was not said or that was not said, or even for the bench to say this was said or this was not said.
Fifthly, the Bill is silent with regard the taking of notes by hand by a tribunal. This Bill must explicitly state that magistrates and judges, or any properly constituted tribunal presiding over matters of law, are not required to take notes by hand. This will deal with the time factor. I have stopped taking notes Mr. Speaker. I usually use my laptop or Ipad to take notes and most times I finish in half the time the Magistrates take to write the notes the witnesses are giving. The Bill must state that magistrates and judges are no longer required by law to take hand written notes. It is not only exacerbate, or continues the waste of time we are complaining about, but sets us back and makes the equipment archaic and of no use, because the judge and magistrate still have to spend the same hour or two writing what the witnesses would have said.
Those are my observations on this Bill. But I wish to commend this Bill. It is long overdue as the Minister rightly said, but it is most welcome I am sure by both bench and bar.
Thank you. [Applause]
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