Circuit Court jury trials for the 2021 Michaelmas term, from September to December, have been deferred due to the latest surge in coronavirus (CoVID-19) cases.
Chief Justice, Hon. Bryan Sykes, made the announcement during Thursday’s (September 16) opening of the Home Circuit Court in downtown Kingston.
Mr. Sykes indicated that members of the Judiciary’s CoVID-19 Advisory Committee had several discussions before deciding to postpone the resumption of jury trials this term.
“When all things were considered, including the spike in the CoVID-19 numbers [and] the [presence of the] Delta variant [in Jamaica], the decision was taken that, across the island, we could not safely resume jury trials,” he informed.
“We felt it was simply too risky, particularly at the point of jury selection, where the jurors would have to certainly be in one space where they could see and hear what is happening and hear the names being called,” the Chief Justice added.
Against this background, Mr. Sykes said the judicial system will have to modify its response to crises.
“We have to move, now, from ‘response’ to the crisis, to having more permanent and settled ways of managing within the CoVID-19 pandemic or, indeed, to other pandemics that may come,” he added.
The Chief Justice said redesigning jury boxes to accommodate the recommended social distancing protocols made by the Ministry of Health and Wellness is on the agenda.
He further advised that of the courts islandwide, only four are equipped to operate within the recommended health guidelines without significant alterations.
These are two facilities at the Home Circuit Court, and one each in Portland and Westmoreland.