Consultant Calls For Review Of How Jurors Are Selected In Coroner’s Court


Consultant on Justice Reform in the Ministry of Justice, Canute Brown, has suggested a review of the manner in which jurors were selected to serve on the jury panel of a coroner’s court.
He has also advocated for teachers, ministers of religion and tertiary level students, to be included in the list of persons eligible to serve jury duty at a trial.
Mr. Brown, in an interview with JIS News, expressed concern about the seemingly high level of rotation among jurors for some coroner’s courts. He also pointed out that there should be a right to ‘excuse’ a juror if one party believed a juror might be biased against him.
Elaborating on the rotation of jurors, the Consultant on Justice Reform pointed out that it seemed that in some instances, the same persons kept reappearing for jury duty. He noted that this was due mainly to their availability, as many others for various reasons, did not serve.
“Because of the availability, no doubt, of some people to serve.they are usually the ones who turn up,” he said. “[We] can’t have the same people serving, every two months or every three months.
They probably should serve once per year”, he pointed out, noting also that there was a need for transparency. “The pool of potential jurors is wide enough, hence we shouldn’t be restricted to the same set of jurors all the time,” he insisted.
On the point of excusing a juror, he noted that at the coroner’s inquest, there was no right to ask that a juror be excused – otherwise referred to as a right of challenge – as obtained in a criminal case. Challenging or excusing a juror, simply referred to asking the potential juror not to partake in the proceedings, and selecting a substitute.
Explaining the role of the coroner’s court, Mr. Brown noted that there were complex cases involving the deaths of persons and the security forces, or other circumstances, which demanded an enquiry. The coroner conducts such an inquest with a jury.
There were some inquests, which were conducted by the coroner alone, he noted, but there were others where it was felt that the person might have died in circumstances, that might lead to criminal charges being brought against others. In such instances, the coroner has a duty to summon a jury to sit with him or her in hearing the matter.
On the matter of expanding the list of potential jurors to sit on trials, the Consultant said that he believed that teachers should be allowed to serve jury duty even though they were civil servants, as they could make a valid contribution to the justice system.
Ministers of religion and college or university students likewise could make a meaningful contribution to the trial process and by extension, the justice system, and should be allowed to do so, Mr. Brown said.

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