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Story Highlights

  • Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla, is hailing Jamaica’s Criminal Bench Book as a legal resource to strengthen the process of judges’ summations to juries in criminal cases.
  • The recently published book seeks to aid trial judges in directing juries in Circuit Court trials, and contains brief summaries of commonplace areas of law encountered in criminal cases.
  • Congratulating the authors of the book, Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said the retired judges who worked on the publication used many summations of judges over the decades to “ensure that we have standard directions to judges”.

Chief Justice, Hon. Zaila McCalla, is hailing Jamaica’s Criminal Bench Book as a legal resource to strengthen the process of judges’ summations to juries in criminal cases.

The recently published book seeks to aid trial judges in directing juries in Circuit Court trials, and contains brief summaries of commonplace areas of law encountered in criminal cases.

Also in the book are areas that summations should address, examples for consideration as well as practical suggestions for directions in certain areas of jury and trial management.

Addressing the launch at the Spanish Court Hotel, in New Kingston, Mrs. McCalla said it is widely recognised that preparation of summations, and clear delivery of directions to juries are at the “heart of the roles of judges in the trial of criminal cases”.

She noted that over the years, judges have performed this difficult task without the benefit of a Bench Book, and the publication, which “collates in one place all the material needed for the purposes of summations” and directions to juries, will assist the system.

Conceptualised by the Chief Justice, and authored by retired High Court Judges, Ferdinand Smith and Karl Harrison, with funding provided by the United Kingdom (UK) Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the book was produced by the Judiciary of Jamaica, led by a Committee chaired by Appeal Court Judge, Hon. Justice Patrick Brooks.

The Chief Justice pointed out that lack of ready access to a “dependable and relevant” legal document to provide guidance to judges in specific offences in “our jurisdiction” has led to some cases being successful at appeals against convictions as a result of “misdirection” to juries by trial judges.

She said the book will lift the standard of summations and establish consistency in how jurors are directed by judges.

“The crafting of our own Bench Book is aimed at consistency, transparency and saving judicial time… its publication is another important milestone in the continued modernisation of our justice system,” Mrs. McCalla reasoned.

For her part, Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Paula Llewellyn, said the book is timely, and the Chief Justice must be commended to have the vision to create it.

“This will certainly be one important toolkit and required reading, especially for new Crown Counsels…” in terms of the knowledge of the law, and to always have the book at their disposal, she told JIS News.

Congratulating the authors of the book, Minister of Justice, Hon. Delroy Chuck, said the retired judges who worked on the publication used many summations of judges over the decades to “ensure that we have standard directions to judges”.

Justice Smith advises that the book is not intended to be a “replacement for thorough research” of the law required for particular cases, “so it is not intended to be rigid, but at the same time, it allows for consistency”.

Meanwhile, Justice Harrison said new judges, lawyers, law tutors and students will benefit.

“It will improve their professional skills, and facilitate their daily performance,” he said.

“Experienced judges or senior judges may find useful reminders about how to deal with routine matters, suggestions for handling more complex issues or helpful starting points when they face particular situations for the first time,” Justice Harrison added.

British High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency David Fitton, described the book as an “impressive document”, and its importance “cannot be overemphasised”.

“I am immensely proud that we have been able to cooperate with you,” the High Commissioner said.

In a foreword of the more than 400-page book, Justice McCalla lauds the British High Commission for its continued and committed support to Jamaica’s justice system over many years.

She informs that although there has been heavy reliance on the work of the Judicial College of England and Wales by use of material from its Compendium, there was “extensive input from the authors”.

“Despite their continued heavy schedules in public life, they have continued to serve the judiciary in many ways, and have done yeoman service in collating and writing much of the material,” the Chief Justice said.

“I hope that judges and the legal profession, in general, will find this Bench Book useful and beneficial in helping to achieve the timely delivery of a high standard of justice for all,” she added.