First Look

Justice ministry moves to address problems plaguing jury system

Ministry of Justice | 2012-04-23 10:12:00

An internal working group of the Ministry of Justice met yesterday to discuss the problems plaguing the jury system in Jamaica, and the related incidents of trials being unable to start, which have been the subject of recent media attention. The meeting examined proposals developed by the Ministry of Justice for the administrative and legislative reform to improve the jury system.

Coming out of those discussions the decision has been taken to adopt the following set of measures in an effort to tackle the problem:

1.      Working in tandem with the Court Management Service (CMS), a public education and public relations campaign will be developed to encourage citizens to perform the critical civic duty of jury service. The campaign will highlight its importance to our society and the fact that jury service should be viewed as an interesting and rewarding experience. This campaign will be launched in tandem with the Michaelmas session of the Supreme Court which is scheduled for September 17, 2012.

2.       Lobbying the Ministry of Finance for an increase to the daily stipend paid to persons who do their jury duty, in keeping with the movement of prices since the amount of the stipend was last fixed in July 1998.

3.       Reviewing the penalties imposed by law on those who fail to attend court for jury service in response to a summons, to align the penalties with the levels being imposed by current legislation.

4.       Reviewing the categories of persons who are exempt from jury service, to eliminate unjustifiable exempt categories.  In particular, it is felt that civil servants should no longer be exempt from jury service.

5.       Reviewing the current statutory arrangements in relation to jury trials, to determine whether the range of offences which are tried by jury should be reduced, given the chronic challenges being experienced in empanelling juries.  In particular, sexual offences, and the less serious indictable offences, are being considered for trial by judge alone.  Once the Ministry’s policy proposals on these measures have been developed, a process of consultation with the legal profession and other stakeholders will be undertaken.

The Justice Minister notes that, “the measures outlined at 1 to 4 above, once implemented, should collectively help to reverse the trend of very poor attendance record of persons who are summoned for jury duty, which has been established by research done in October 2009”.

Posted By :Justice Education Unit

Company Name : Ministry of Justice

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