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Former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Justice Cecil Claude Kennard, CCH has died. His death on Saturday, March 11, 2022 sent shockwaves throughout the country, with Guyanese near and far extending condolences on the passing of the distinguished Guyanese legal luminary.
In a statement, the Government expressed deep sorrow at the passing of Justice Kennard, one of Guyana’s foremost sons.
“Justice Kennard served this country with distinction and humility since 1962, first as a private practitioner in the Ancient County of Berbice. Ever since, he gave over 50 years of service to Guyana in a number of capacities, among which were senior State Counsel in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Court of Appeal Justice, Chief Justice, Chancellor of the Judiciary and Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority,” the Government said.
Justice Kennard presided over the Judiciary at a time when Guyana experienced major constitutional reforms and the respect and independence of the judiciary was restored, the Government added.
It noted too that the passing of such an exemplary son of the soil also creates a void in the sporting fraternity in Guyana, more specifically the Horse Racing and Cricket administrations.
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, in a statement on Facebook, recalled that Justice Kennard’s legal career begun in 1962 after he graduated from the prestigious Lincoln’s Inn – the very year he was called to the local Bar.
“In 1965, he was appointed Crown Counsel in the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). After independence, he continued as State Counsel in that office. He also served the position of Legal Advisor to the Guyana Police Force (GPF) from 1971-1973. During this period, he acted as a rent assessment magistrate on a part time basis,” the Attorney General detailed.
He added: “Justice Kennard spent a number of years in Antigua, prosecuting a number of high-profile cases in that country. In 1977, he returned to Guyana and was appointed a High Court Judge. In June 1985, He was appointed a Justice of Appeal. In January 1995, he was appointed Chief Justice. In 1996, he was awarded the Cacique Crown of Honour for distinguished service in the area of law. It was in that year also that he was appointed Chancellor of the Judiciary.”
Minister Nandlall said the Guyana Law Reports , the West Indian Law Reports and the Commonwealth Law Reports, have recorded some of the landmark judgments Justice Kennard would have written and rendered during his long and illustrious career.
“Criminal law was certainly his forte. His erudite judgments in areas of the criminal law, such as, acting in concert, corroboration, identification evidence, admissibility of confession statements, right to counsel in criminal trials, have guided legal practitioners and judges for years and will continue to do so long into the future. He was always willing to offer advice and guidance to young lawyers. I benefited tremendously in this regard,” he said further.
Upon his retirement from the Judiciary, Justice Kennard was appointed Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, a post he held for several years and in which he also acquitted himself with distinction.
In a separate statement, the Guyana Bar Association said Justice Kennard was a distinguished jurist, who delivered justice with the dignity befitting the revered Honourable which accompanies the word, Justice.
“His tall stature could be seen as an indicator that he would have made colossal strides through the course of his practice at the Bar and later service at the Bench, culminating in the attainment of the highest judicial office in Guyana, that of Chancellor,” it said.
Like the Attorney General, the Bar Association pointed out that Justice Kennard’s service to Guyana continued even after his retirement, as he was not content to ride off into the proverbial legal sunset.
After his retirement from the Bench, he served as Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority for some 15 years.
“He never passed young Counsel with whom he was acquainted, without inquiring of his or her wellbeing, sharing a view on a topical legal issue and concluding the encounter always with a kind word of encouragement,” the association recalled.
It said too that the records of the Court of Appeal will reflect one of his most recent addresses on the occasion of a Full Court sitting to pay tribute to another distinguished jurist. “There Former Chancellor Kennard reminded us all that central to any system of democratic governance is the doctrine of separation of powers. For the administration of justice in Guyana, he was a champion of the doctrine of separation of powers, particularly in the face of executive excess, speaking out against violation without fear or favour,” it said.
Condolences have been extended to his caring, devoted and beloved wife, Mrs. Chan Kennard, son, daughter-in-law and extended family. May his soul rest in eternal perfect peace.