Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 8th 2014 Contents A14
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Tuesday, July 8, 2014
The Criminal Bar Association has
been unable to come to a definite
position on the question of whether
trial by jury should be abolished
because of the divergent views of
"The association can t take a posi-
tion because the views of members
are so disparate.
"I can t say the Criminal Bar Asso-
ciation has a position for or against,
simply because many individual
members feel strongly the system
should be maintained as it is and
others feel it should be abolished,"
said vice-president Sophia Chote.
There is also a third group which
feels an accused should be given the
choice to elect a jury to try him or
a judge, she added.
Chote said an interesting aspect
that came up was that the Consti-
tution makes no provision giving a
citizen the right to be tried by a jury.
On the other hand, however, a cit-
izen has a constitutional right to
serve as a juror.
"I guess all these things will have
to be hammered out if the system
has to change," she said.
Giving her personal view of the
matter, Chote said she belonged to
the third group which felt an accused
should be given the choice of whether
he wanted to be tried by a jury or
a single judge.
The issue, which has gripped the
attention of the law fraternity, arose
after Chief Justice Ivor Archie recently
suggested the abolition of the jury
PNM MP Colm Imbert, noting
there are arguments for and against,
said it was a complex matter and
should not be rushed into willy-nilly.
Asked his views, he said T&T s
jury system flowed straight from
Clause 39 of the Magna Carta of
1215, which provided for the judgment
of men by their peers.
"This is a sacred right which we
should not give up easily and it is an
integral part of our participatory
"For many people, therefore, trial
by jury seems to be the fairest and
the most unbiased way of establish-
ing a person s guilt or innocence,"
He said the reasons often cited for
the abolishing of juries included inor-
dinate delay, high cost and ineffi-
ciency, and the fact that many jurors
have no proper understanding of the
complexities of the law and could
be swayed by fast-talking lawyers,
or moved to make decisions out of
"However, on the other hand, the
jury system allows ordinary people
to participate in the criminal justice
system and it is a check and balance
against the arbitrary exercise of exec-
"It is also a check and balance
against victimisation and/or discrim-
ination," he said.
Listing some advantages of the
jury system, Imbert said they com-
prise several people who have dif-
ferent life experiences, knowledge
and positions, thus cancelling indi-
Juries tend to make their decisions
in line with generally accepted societal
norms and values, which creates pub-
lic trust of the system
The discussion between jurors
made it possible to analyse all aspects
of a case and make a fair decision,
rather than leaving decisions involv-
ing life and liberty up to one person,
He said although a case could be
made for trial by a single judge in
complex fraud cases or in situations
where jury tampering might be a
danger, he did not think trial by jury
should be abolished simply because
juries sometimes got it wrong or
Adding his voice to the chorus of
attorneys against the abolition of the
jury system was Senior Counsel
Charles, giving his response after
the publication of a report in yes-
terday s T&T Guardian, said the time
had come for a deep discussion on
how justice could be fairly dispensed.
"The time has come for an in-
depth and insightful discussion on
the way forward so that justice can
be fairly dispensed."
Charles said the jury system was
an ancient and indispensable foun-
dation on which the criminal justice
system was founded and could not
be substituted by a single judge.
"A trial by one s peers cannot be
substituted by trial by a single judge.
"We have too often seen the fail-
ures of this approach."
He added: "The jury system over
the generations has proven itself to
be the fairest way of ensuring the
fairness at criminal trials.
"In this system, a trial judge has
his role and function."
He said anxieties over the system
had been brought about by the inor-
dinate delay in having a timely and
fair hearing and "cannot be satisfied
by a Section 34 plea bargaining, elim-
inating preliminary enquiries, or by
the proven failures of paper com-
Lawyers deadlocked over abolition of juries
Members of Team
Barbados parade for
judges during the
march past segment of
Republic Bank's Sports
and Family Day held at
Larry Gomes Stadium,
Malabar, Arima on
FAMILY DAY FUN
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