Trial by Judge alone …”NO ACCUSED WANTS THAT”

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Opposition Senator, Gerald Ramdeen, says that no accused would choose to have a trial with a judge sitting alone, with no jury.

He made that point very clear in the Senate on Tuesday as debate began on the Trial by Judge Alone Bill 2017.

Claiming that the right to trial by jury is an absolute right in this country, Ramdeen said Attorney General, FarisAl-Rawi must apologize to the Cabinet, the Parliament and the country for bringing such legislation to Parliament.

Ramdeen said Al-Rawi of trying to get the Senate to amend and pass legislation, “which has already been struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court.”

He added that after doing so, Al-Rawi must do the decent thing and resign.

Ramdeen listed several legal notables who opposed the abolition of trial by jury. As he looked through the legislation, Ramdeen remarked, “There is no legitimate aim here. There is no proportionality either.

Recalling that Chief Justice Ivor Archie made certain observations about trial by jury, Ramdeen quoted correspondence from the late Senior Counsel, Dana Seetahal, about this same issue as it pertained to matters that she was involved in. Referring to those same matters, Ramdeen said under the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, both the Executive and the Judiciary must know their respective places.

Noting there have been 100 murders so far for this year and 467 murders last year, Ramdeen said the statistics which Al-Rawi mentioned in his contribution, were irrelevant to to the debate

Ramdeen added, “As a public lawyer, I can tell you that there is no prisoner who is going to sit in this day and age and ask for a judge-only trial.” Ramdeen noted the Chief Justice had called for the abolition of jury trials in his address at the opening of the Law Term.

But, Ramdeen noted that while the Chief Justice said he was not to blame for the delay in justice, apportioning some of the blame to the jury system, the evidence showed cases before the Appeal Court, of which Archie was a member and which involved only judges also moved slowly.

Ramdeen said on October 14, 2013, the late Dana Seetahal had cause to write Archie about three capital matters which had been heard by the Court of Appeal in 2009, 2010 and 2012 (involving Gerald Wilson, Lester Pitman and David Donald), to which judgments were outstanding.

WHAT THE AG SAID

Al Rawi declared that trial by jury was not an absolute right in this country.

Referring to Section 5 of the Constitution, Al-Rawi stated, “There is no direct reference to a trial by jury.” 

Listing several other eminent jurists and legal entities which Government consulted with on this legislation, Al-Rawi declared, “Not a soul has said that the bill requires a three fifths majority, or in fact is unconstitutional.” Al- Rawi said the Privy Council also indicated in one of its judgments, “There is no entrenched right to a trial by jury.” He described attempts by the Opposition to allege that the bill required a special majority for passage as the United National Congress (UNC), “trying to build up a straw man to beat it down again.”

Al-Rawi disclosed that unlike the former People’s Partnership (PP) government which sought to totally abolish trial by juries, this legislation offered a choice between trial by judge alone or trial by judge and jury.

Al-Rawi said 8,600 jurors were summoned last year. However 1,170 applications for exemptions were presented, 1,195 were granted and 75 were refused. According to Al-Rawi, the data suggested that the manpower hours spent with respect to juries from 2011 to 2014 could cost $10.3 million.

Al-Rawi said what cannot be denied is that a murder is a murder is a murder. He also said what the bill seeks to advance, along with other pieces of legislation which Government has brought or is in the process of bringing to Parliament is that, there must be some consequence to criminality. Noting that 22 Commonwealth countries no longer do trials by jury, Al-Rawi said, “Judges are not necessarily persons born with gold and silver spoons in their mouths.” He added that judges have the ability to have proper minds when considering matters.

INDEPENDENT SENATOR SPEAKS

Independent Senator Sophia Chote SC said she could not support the bill. She did not see how overloading judges would reduce the backlog in the criminal justice system. Observing that Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard recently said he did not view trial by juries as attributing to the backlog, Chote said only nine places are allocated for judges in the Criminal Assizes. Saying this has been reduced to seven in recent times, Chote wondered how would the lucky seven be able to deal with the hundreds of cases coming their way. 

She also argued that the average citizen discharges their civic and civil duty through jury service. 

Chote admitted that while jury tampering is a real issue in this country, juries don’t make a problem in the dispensation of justice. 
 Image result for GERALD RAMDEEN
GERALD RAMDEEN 
 
Image result for SOPHIA CHOTE
SOPHIA CHOTE

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