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  • The Jury (Amendment) Act 2016, which makes provisions for majority verdicts to be accepted in cases of non-capital murder, was approved in the Senate on May 27.
  • As a result of not amending that Section, the Senator pointed out that only unanimous verdicts would be acceptable in trials for non-capital murder.
  • The Bill was approved without amendments. The Lower House also gave its nod of approval on May 25, 2016.

The Jury (Amendment) Act 2016, which makes provisions for majority verdicts to be accepted in cases of non-capital murder, was approved in the Senate on May 27.

Piloting the Bill, Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said this revised legislation aims to rectify omissions made in the Jury (Amendment) Act, 2015, which came into force on February 1, 2016.

“What we are seeking to do is to correct an anomaly that occurred as a result of our passage of the Jury Amendment Bill last year. There was a clause in the Bill which was not adjusted…and it has ensured that a majority verdict may not be taken in accordance with the Act, despite the fact that this would’ve been the overall intention of the Bill,” she explained.

Mrs. Johnson Smith further noted that the previous amendment to the Jury Act was aimed at addressing the problem of inadequacy of jurors to serve in the Circuit Courts and to improve the inefficiencies in the administration of the criminal justice system. However, the required adjustments to enforce this provision were not made.

“By virtue of the Jury (Amendment) Act 2015, the law was amended to reduce the number of jurors required to try non-capital murder cases from 12 persons to seven persons. However, this amendment was not followed by a consequential amendment to Section 44 of the Jury Act,” she said.

As a result of not amending that Section, the Senator pointed out that only unanimous verdicts would be acceptable in trials for non-capital murder.

“Any split decision, even five-two or six-one would render the jury hung or deadlocked, necessitating a retrial, which would add to the backlog of cases already in the system,” she noted.

It has now become necessary to further amend the Jury Act to provide for a verdict of not less than five jurors for non-capital murder, thereby correcting the glitch that only unanimous verdicts would be acceptable in these types of murder trials.

The Bill was approved without amendments. The Lower House also gave its nod of approval on May 25, 2016.