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National Assembly unanimously approves Evidence (Amendment) Bill

The Evidence (Amendment) Bill No. 23 of 2013, approved by the National Assembly on Thursday, will expand the category of experts to present evidence in Court cases without being present. First rejected in June 2013 when tabled by Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, the Bills were re-tabled in December by Attorney General (AG) Anil Nandlall.

The legislation which seeks to expand the range of documents/reports that can be admitted as evidence also provides for an analyst, either from the Guyana Police Force Forensic Laboratory or any other qualified individual, without taking away the right of the accused or the court to test the reliability of the report or certificate presented by the said analyst.

Currently, the legislative provision under section 43 of the Evidence Act, allows certain specific reports compiled by experts to be used in court without the need for an analyst to be present in court to give evidence.

These include: post-mortem reports (prepared by the pathologist), medical certificates (prepared by registered medical practitioners) and the report of the analyst who tests for narcotics.

The Amended Bill will now see certain statutory provisions enacted in relation to the admission of evidence of the reports and analysis of fingerprints, firearms and ammunition, poisonous and noxious substances, local and foreign currencies, human blood, bones and tissues, and fuel and fuel-based substances.  

AG Nandlall said the Bill has great practical value, particularly as it relates to bringing expediency to an otherwise very slothful legal system. He explained that the absence of the amendment has seen tremendous difficulty in trying to establish offences.

A Partnership for National Unity Member of Parliament Basil Williams, in supporting the Bill, said it was long overdue, adding that it would open new categories for delayed trials.

Alliance for Change Leader Khemraj Ramjattan however, cautioned that such documented evidence should come with the consideration that the integrity and quality of the persons and the systems presenting it is unassailable.

AG Nandlall acknowledged the concerns raised and gave the assurance that persons deemed professionals are exactly that and can be subject to cross-examination in the relevant cases.

The Bill was passed with the full support of the House.