JIS News

Debate on a Bill to amend the Jury Act, so as to enable the Registrar of the Supreme Court to make appropriate arrangements for the serving of summonses on jurors, and to remove from the Commissioner of Police, the responsibility for the serving of such summonses, began on December 2 in the House of Representatives.
“This is important, as given the significant problems we have now in fighting crime, we consider that it is an inefficient use of trained policemen to have them travelling the highways and byways to serve summonses on jurors,” Prime Minister Bruce Golding said, as he piloted the Bill.
Mr. Golding also informed that the Bill is being amended, so as to allow for summonses to be served by Police Constables, if necessary, as “there may be some circumstances in which it is necessary to employ the services of a policeman.”
The Bill also seeks to widen the pool of persons from which jury lists may be compiled, to include holders of Taxpayer Registration Numbers (TRN).
The Prime Minister also informed that additional changes are being proposed, to allow for speedier sentencing of persons who have been found guilty of particular crimes.
“Currently, the law requires that before anyone can be convicted of murder, there must be a unanimous verdict by the jury. In the case of capital murder, where the maximum penalty could be death by hanging, in those instances the requirement for a unanimous verdict must be retained,” Mr. Golding said.
“The unanimity of the verdict is (also) still required in non capital cases and the object of the amendment, is to retain unanimous verdict for capital murder, where the maximum penalty can be death, and in the case of non capital murder, to amend the current provision, so that a non capital murder conviction can be effected with a jury in which at least nine of 12 so decide,” he added.
Mr. Golding said it is also proposed to amend the Act to extend the time that must elapse before jurors arrive at a verdict. At present, the law states that a jury in effect, cannot return a verdict in a murder case in less than one hour.
“What is intended here, is that they must spend at least two hours, because you are talking about a serious decision and we are talking about somebody’s life or you are talking about somebody’s liberty to be curtailed for an extended period of time. So, the opportunity has been taken to extend the period during which a jury must retire and consider, from a minimum of one hour to a minimum of two hours,” the Prime Minister explained.
Opposition Member of Parliament for St. Andrew East Central, Dr. Peter Phillips, supported the amendments and noted that the retention of the principle of citizen involvement in the justice system by way of the jury system, “is certainly one that warrants support from all of us.”
Debate on the Bill will continue at the next sitting of the House of Representatives.

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