Western News

High Court judge urges public not to shirk jury duty

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, February 21, 2019

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DUNCANS, Trelawny — High Court Judge Justice Sharon George is reminding members of the public who are summoned to act as jurors that they should not shirk the civil responsibility which plays an integral part in the disposal of court matters in the justice system.

“The law requires that you be here. Now, if it is that you don't attend, it means the matter sits on the list,” Justice George declared.

The high court judge noted that the dodging of juror responsibilities could spell disaster for innocent persons who may be left languishing in jail or, on the other hand, rewarding the guilty who are left unpunished.

She also warned that persons who are summoned and refuse to serve could face a fine of up to $10,000 for each day they fail to attend court.

She was speaking at the opening of the Hilary Term of the Trelawny Circuit Court at the Duncans Courthouse in the parish on Monday.

Lead prosecutor Judi Ann Edwards bemoaned that up to 10:00 am on Monday, of the 300 persons summoned to serve as jurors, only 16 were present.

That number, however, swelled passed 40 before the first break.

“I note that there seems to be a difficulty with jurors, and I am told that 100 [persons] were served personally and 200 by post, and up to this morning [Monday] about 10:00, there were 16 persons present. Now, I am happy for the persons who are here…..,” Justice George argued.

Edwards also noted that lottery scamming dominated the staggering 77 matters on the list down for trial over the four-week period.

Justice George urged both prosecution and defence attorneys to demonstrate their commitment by utilising new legislative tools, such as plea bargaining, to guarantee a speedier disposal of the cases.

A plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or “no contest” (nolo contendere) in exchange for an agreement by the prosecutor to drop one or more charges, reduce a charge to a less serious offence, or recommend to the judge a specific sentence acceptable to the defense.

Stewart gave the Crown's commitment.

Defence attorney Ernie Smith gave a commitment on behalf of the attorneys that no time will be wasted.

“We will not waste any time unnecessarily. You have a formidable list for four weeks which means, My Lady, that with all of us working as a team some sensible dent shall or ought to be made on this list,” Smith said.


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