Regional

Jurors want 'justice'

say they have not received stipend after four years

By RENAE DIXON Sunday Observer staff reporter dixonr@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, March 30, 2014    

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Some jurors who have served in St Ann over the past four years claim that they have not received the stipulated allowance owed to them by the Government over the period.

While the jurors have volunteered their time to the Jamaican justice system, they believe that they are being unfairly treated by the Ministry of Justice and are calling on Minister Mark Golding and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to address their plight.

"We need a word from the justice minister. We need to know what is happening," one woman who served as a juror over a three-year and nine-month period told the Jamaica Observer last week.

"Each time we ask we hear that the money will soon be here ... or at the end of the month. Another financial year is about to be finished and it has been four years now," she stated.

"We have to find lunch, (bus and taxi) fare and we have to go to court clean. We want to know from the minister of justice what is happening to the money," she went on.

The woman said that while serving as a juror is service to one's country, the money has been promised and should be paid to compensate jurors for the huge expenses which they often incur while carrying out their duties.

The woman, who did not wish to be identified, said that the jurors have been serving in special sittings such as the Coroner's Court held every first Monday of each month and which could run for many days, depending on the case.

According to the woman, the jurors also serve in a special Coroner's Court for police personnel.

Not only have these persons endangered their lives to ensure justice is served, she said, but, they also face a number of challenges.

"It is getting out of proportion. Some of us have to take two vehicles. We have to be there by 10 o'clock and sometimes we don't leave until 6:00 pm. We have to find lunch and we sit on the tough bench all day," the woman explained.

The jurors said that they were promised retroactive payments since 2012 by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller. However, the money has not been forthcoming.

"That is why persons do not want to be jurors. People are afraid for their lives and not receiving any money," the woman stated.

Another elderly woman who spoke to the Sunday Observer said that it has been several years since she received a stipend. When she finally got something, she said, it was a mere $3,000 for doing work over a three-year period.

"It is a shame," her fellow juror stated.

The jurors said that their duty not only creates financial strain for travelling and buying meals, but that it often disrupts their regular lives, pushing them towards further financial crisis.

One man has reportedly faced marital problems stemming from his duties as a juror, as he was not able to provide financially for his family. The man told the Sunday Observer that due to his duty as a juror, as a self employed person many times he has not been able to work to provide for his family.

"And if you no go them put you behind bars," the man stated.

"Or dem send police for you," another juror interjected during their interview with the Sunday Observer.

The jurors said that about two months ago they were told that all that should have been done for them to receive the money owed to them, was for the cheques to signed. However, up to last Thursday, they had not receive any money.

"Which Member of Parliament or Minister going to work for four years and don't get pay," one of the jurors said.

"I have bills to pay too," the juror, an elderly woman stated.

"People leave their business to reach court and if you don't turn up them summon you. That is not fair," the juror said in outlimning the challenges faced.

"They need to do better. You know how many mornings I leave my breakfast because I don't want to be late?" she added, pointing out that lunch is sometimes later than 1:00 pm.

Having to go through all these struggles to ensure that justice is served, the jurors say that more effort should be made to ensure that they are better looked after.

Some jurors were not sure how much they would be paid as stipends as they had not received the allowance since the start of duties.

The daily stipend remains at $500, however, there are proposals for it to be increased.

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