Bar association rejects judge-only trials

The legal fraternity is rejecting a recommendation by Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Charles Leacock, QC, to abandon trials by jury as a means of reducing the backlog of cases in the law courts.

Leacock had told participants at a Regional Security System (RSS) course on prosecuting drug offences last Friday that there were over 10,000 cases awaiting trial in the Magistrates Courts here and another 800 in the High Court, with 200 being added every year.

He suggested that the backlog could be reduced if trial by jury were abandoned and judge-only trials introduced instead.

However, President of the Bar Association of Barbados Liesel Weekes sees it differently, telling Barbados TODAY this afternoon that scrapping jury trials would not necessarily cut down the “mountain” of cases clogging the judicial system.

“I’m not certain that doing away with a jury trial is going to significantly impact the backlog. The pre-trial stage is where the delays occur and so we have to look at what transpires there, where those delays occur there, so we can alleviate those delays that occur, prior to trial. I don’t know what significant difference doing away with jury trials would be in a criminal matter,” Weekes contended.

The legal body’s spokesperson further explained that civil matters did not require jury trials, therefore, those cases would not be impacted by any decision to do away with such trials.

On the other hand, she maintained, there was no difficulty completing criminal cases once the trial begins, since the delays tend to occur before the start of the hearing.

“When the trial starts, I don’t get the impression that the delays occur in the trial of the action. Criminal matters usually tend to start and finish . . . and the only trials for which we have jury in Barbados is criminal trials,” the law association head added.

Leacock had said that the time had come to reexamine the need to continue with the jury system for all indictable offences, stressing that over 22 Commonwealth countries, including Belize, had abolished jury trials for criminal matters.

“With the continued increase in cases and the large volume of cases to be tried, and with the limited and finite judicial time that’s available, we should seriously consider whether trial for all indictable matters, especially drug matters [and] money laundering, should be tried by jury,” Leacock had argued.

The country’s most senior public prosecutor added that judge-only trials would also curb jury tampering, jury intimidation and witness tampering, while arguing also for the acceptance of witness statements, saying there was too much reliance on oral evidence in some cases.

Last July, a Bill to abolish preliminary inquiries in Magistrates’ Courts in a bid to reduce the backlog of cases was introduced to the Lower House, with broad support from both Government and Opposition.

In leading off debate on the Bill, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite had said the Magistrate’s Court (Amendment) Bill 2016 would reduce unnecessary delays in bringing criminal, civil and traffic proceedings to conclusion.

8 Responses to Bar association rejects judge-only trials

  1. Kevin Gibson
    Kevin Gibson April 4, 2017 at 12:33 am

    I guess the poor will never have a chance!

  2. Kaiser Sose
    Kaiser Sose April 4, 2017 at 4:06 am

    A jugde only trial leaves the adjudication of cases to a sole person the judge , we all have biases , it opens up the the cabal to bribery and undo influences, a trial by jury of your peers gives you the opportunity to win your case because the verdict must be unanimous .
    Sir the poors best option is a trial by jury. not having the money to afford a lawyer is the conundrum that affects the poor, public defenders have too many cases to give good and proper representation that is more of a problem for the poor SIR. I do hope i broadened your outlook.Namaste.

  3. Dave Person
    Dave Person April 4, 2017 at 6:17 am

    So you an to tell me that if they stop locking up people for a plant then the high Court would get 200 less cases a year? I wonder what percent of cases are plant related?

  4. Carlisle Norville April 4, 2017 at 11:31 am

    I know for a fac,t that when (Elliot Belgrave,) now (govener gereral) was a high court gudge, a young man was presented before him charge with fraud,that young man had two character witnesses,
    one a christian counsellor & two a superintendant of churches,
    the young man was introduce to cocain by a very attractive young lady, he knew nothing about cocain but was introduce to it after having drank some rum punches,that was his downfall after getting hook an being out of control, he committed fraud against
    against the C.I.B.C. Bank the case came berofe Elliot Belgrave even
    though the Councellor spoke of the good back ground of the man &
    about his good recovery progress Elliot Belgrave( said You think you snart)( I am sending a signal to the society) he hit the desk he was behind with the wooden hammer in his hand & said ,5 yrs in prison ( the appropriate action should have been )you come from a
    good background & you made a foolish mistake ,i am sending you to a drug rehab center to recover & you will have to pay back the bank the money you stole the money was ($5000,:00) so we need jurior’s
    to help make more compassionare decidesion’s

  5. Carlisle Norville April 4, 2017 at 11:41 am

    Elliot Belgrave is a man of the Fraternity, so he has a sense of power, * the ULTIMATE POWER comes from the Tetragramaton GOD ,the LORD of Host.& he gives Divine Protection to his servant’s.!

    • jennifer April 4, 2017 at 7:31 pm

      @Carlisle – the tetragramaton “God” requires much from his servants. Including separateness and loyalty.

  6. Ossie Moore April 4, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    Lord mek peace Mr. Carlisle Norville ! Dah was a massa slamma outa de Scotland!

  7. Whitehill April 4, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    Elliot also said in an interview carried by another media house, upon his return from attaining a law degree in England, he didn’t want to use his ” Skills” to help the guilty so he opted for a position in the government/ civil service.
    How can any black person being away for some time in Europe or North America return to these islands not willing to see his fellow black man/woman accorded his due rights under the constitution?


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