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The Senate, on Friday July 9, passed an amendment to the Jury Act to allow for majority verdict in non-capital cases.
It provides that, in cases where the sentencing options do no include the death penalty, no less than nine members of a 12-member jury may return a verdict.
Minister of Justice and Leader of Government Business, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, explained that the amendment is intended to improve efficiency in the court system and result in fewer hung juries, thereby reducing the need for retrials.
“What is being proposed is that the 12 should remain for capital murders because, in capital murders, the ultimate price is life. But where it is non-capital murder, it is being proposed to take a majority verdict so that the cases can move more speedily,” she said.
She noted that several jurisdictions in the Commonwealth such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, have adopted majority verdict by juries in their justice system.
“So, it would not be inconsistent with international trends to adopt the principle of majority verdict in such cases, and the proposed majority will be nine to three out of the 12,” Senator Lightbourne said.
In her remarks, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Marlene Malahoo Forte, stated that the amendment to the Act was “long overdue and welcomed.”