Some cases to continue; others on pause until office is restored, says DPP

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Some of the cases being handled by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) will continue, however, others will have to wait until the DPP’s office is back to a state of normalcy after Saturday’s massive fire.

The fire destroyed the Police Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), the Police’s Construction Department and a dorm section; the DPP’s office was saved.

When the News Room returned to the scene on Monday, the DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack was on the ground with investigators and a contractor to ascertain how much work is needed to get the office back up and running.

A few workers were inside the water-soaked building sifting through the visible mess in efforts to bring some order to the office.

The office of the Director of Public Prosecutions following the fire on Saturday (Photo: News Room/November 22, 2021)

Ali-Hack explained to the News Room that a temporary building is yet to be identified to house the DPP until those works conclude.

This puts a major damper on the work being done by the DPP’s Chambers as many cases would have to be put on hold until the thousands of files that were left in a state of disarray are sorted after being transported out the burning building.

It was said that 98% of the DPP’s critical case jackets, hard drives and other files were saved from the fire. Officials from the DPP’s office were in a mad rush to save them, even resorting to throwing boxes of files out of the window.

“You saw that everything came out, all the documents are mixed up and they will have to be sorted and that will take time also to be sorted so until they are sorted, we would not be able to deal with any cases that concern those documents,” she explained.

Some cases however, would be able to continue as planned.

DPP Shalimar Ali-Hack speaking to the media on Monday (Photo: News Room/November 22, 2021)

The DPP explained further that for a handful of cases, the pertinent documents are in the possession of the lawyers, so “those are safe and they can continue those matters.”

“But when those matters are finished, then we will have to see how far we have gone to with the sorting and then we will know what will be the position henceforth,” she added.

The DPP could not provide a timeline for that sorting process “because of the volumes of work we have to arrange.”

The DPP’s Chambers has been operating with a paper-based system for years and this, according to Ali-Hack, needed to be changed, but she could not say why the system did not transition.

“Since before this, there was a need for transformation and for the system to be digitised before so it’s a joint effort between different agencies of the state and those who are managing that will have to respond to that question.”

The section of the Police Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) damaged by the inferno (Photo: News Room/November 22, 2021)

Meanwhile, investigations into the cause of the fire continue to progress.

The News Room had reported that ranks from Eve Leary who stayed in the dorms were being questioned and that process continued well into Monday, said the Fire Chief Kalamadeen Edoo when contacted for a comment.

Investigators are expecting to have some idea as to what exactly caused the blaze and that will subsequently be made public. The Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips, assured that a thorough investigation will be carried out to determine the cause of the fire.

The fire service in a statement noted that it received a call at 13:50hrs alerting ranks to a fire at the location. It reportedly begun on the top floor of the western side of the building, in an area which is used as the living quarters for ranks of the Guyana Police Force.

It is the second major blow to the force, the first being the fire that destroyed 80% of the Brickdam Police Station back in October.

Minister Benn believes that the fires are politically motivated but he assured that the government will “stand firm.”

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