Sykes says mostly lower-income earners willing to serve as jurors
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Chief Justice Bryan Sykes is denouncing some category of workers in western Jamaica, including middle management and beyond, who he accused of being reluctant to serve as jurors.
Sykes, who was speaking at Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s (MBCCI’s) Annual Awards Banquet at Montego Bay Convention Centre Saturday night, underscored that lower income earners are most willing to volunteer for jury duty.
“In Montego Bay, in fact western Jamaica, you know one of the most intriguing things? When it comes to jury service you can’t find people from the hotel industry — and there are so many hotels from Trelawny. They can’t find people in the financial sector, they can’t find managers — whether junior or senior — to serve as jurors,” he said.
“The only persons we find — and I’m not saying anything is wrong with them — but they turn up: fishermen, … domestic helpers, practical nurses, and so on. And so, the burden of jury service falls disproportionately on these persons,” he added.
He explained that those who are reluctant to serve often submit letters from their employers.
“So when the police happen to find someone from middle management, from the hotel, financial sector and other sectors to serve, you know what happens? A letter comes in to say, ‘Mr John Brown is desirous of serving and he takes his civic responsibility very seriously. However, our company is engaged’ in whatever the critical exercise is ‘and so he won’t be available’,” Sykes said.
He noted that the period of unavailability often coincides with the entire duration of the Circuit Court.
The chief justice stressed that there are implications for the justice system because “when we don’t have enough jurors it means that the cases can’t be tried”.
“So now think of yourself as a rational criminal. Yes, you are here and you’re arrested and charged [but] you don’t know about the conviction rate, you don’t know about the delays in getting the forensic certificates, you don’t know that we have a jury problem. So if I am a criminal or you are a criminal, why would you be concerned about what the penalty is? That can’t be a concern of yours because the likelihood of the penalty being imposed on me is not very great,” Sykes argued.
“And criminals, like everybody else, they do their risk analysis — moral suasion hasn’t stopped them,” he added.
He told the gathering of business interests that offering to be available for jury is among the “things that we need to do to fix the question of crime, not just in Montego Bay but all over”.
“Commerce relies on the predictability and reliability of a legal system, and it is the responsibility of the judiciary to operate in a manner that promotes economic growth and innovation. I and the judges and the employees within our court system are committed to ensuring that our legal system remains agile, transparent and responsive to the changing needs of the Jamaican society,” Sykes said.
“Significant reforms are needed to the criminal justice system in Jamaica, and we have begun to work on them but we need the support of those who provide these vital certificates. I must emphasise that nothing that is done to create excellence can be done in isolation. It will take strong partnership between the legislature, the executive and the private sector to bring about the Jamaica that we want to see.”
He added: “So the reform that is required will make our judiciary more efficient so that the next occasion when I hear from, whether the current president of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce or another president, he will be able to say that among the problems that he has is not crime. That is why we need the reform. And so the bedrock of a stable and economically prosperous Jamaica, one of those is an effective and efficient legal system.”
During Saturday night’s awards ceremony, which was held under the theme ‘Celebrating Business Excellence’, executive chairman of Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited (CPJ) Mark Hart was inducted into Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s prestigious Business Leaders Wall of Fame.
He followed in the footsteps of his late father, business titan Anthony “Tony” Hart, who was inducted into the wall of fame in 2015.
Mark Hart, a luminary in the business sector, is renowned for his extraordinary accomplishments and steadfast commitment to the community. He exemplifies the qualities that define the MBCCI’s Business Leaders Wall of Fame — inspiring leadership, dedication to service, innovation, and professional achievements.