MONTEGO BAY, St James — Justice Minister Senator Mark Golding has set his sights on trial by judges alone for some offences currently tried by a panel of jurors.
The proposed move is geared towards easing the backlog of cases, tried by jurors which are contributing to clogging the justice system, Golding said.
Sexual offences are among those which Senator Golding wants to be tried by judges alone.
"We may have to take some hard decisions in that area, for example sexual offences. There is a view that it is not an ideal way of dealing with sexual offences because of the kind of predisposition that jurors tend to have in how they view victims and how they view offenders and sexual offences," Golding said.
"That's an area I think we may have to look at, perhaps going into a judge-alone trial for some of the offences that currently are tried by jury," he added.
Golding pointed out that countries, including India, have abandoned trials by jury.
"There are countries which have gone that route. India has abandoned trial by jury altogether. I am not suggesting that we go that far. But, I think given the problems we have with the backlog, and the need to get through cases quickly, we can't have cases that are ready for trial which can't proceed because there aren't jurors," Senator Golding bemoaned.
The justice minister was speaking Thursday night at the Montego Bay Civic Centre during a justice forum put on jointly by the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Cornwall Bar Association.
Senator Golding lamented the hardships which the courts face as a result of persons who were unwilling to serve as a jurors.
He said that in order to encourage persons to perform juror duties, there was a need to raise the $500 a day stipend which jurors now receive, and increase the penalty for those who refrain from serving after they are summoned.
"I also would like to increase the stipend which jurors get. Right now it is $500 a day which is inadequate," Senator Golding noted.
"We have this difficulty where we are serving jury summonses but people are not attending and even the volume of people who serve, relative to those who are on the list, is inadequate.
"So the pool of jurors which is required to try a case where we have multiple defendants and the panel of jurors is large ... often those cases are not getting off the ground," he said.