Jury system must be kept
I have listened attentively to the Chief Justice in relation to the abolition of jury trials. While I accept trial by one’s own peers is not a constitutionally guaranteed right, it has over many years evolved into an inalienable right.
Trial by one’s peers remains special to the criminal justice system.
It is no secret some judges, like many of us, can be affected by biases, which can seep into their decision-making.
Trial by judges alone can ultimately lead to an increase in appeals, with the consequence of burdening the appellate courts.
I am not totally against trial by judges in complex, white-collar crimes such as fraud, insider trading, money laundering, etc, as I have noticed at times jurors struggle to maintain focus and understand challenging evidence.
However, I hold strong to the view we should not be encouraged to totally dispense with a system that has worked well for centuries just because of a failure to achieve desired results in the fight against crime. The need for widespread consultation must never be sacrificed for expediency.
As noted jurist Lord Devlin said many years ago, trial by jury is more than an instrument of justice, more than one wheel of the constitution; it is the lamp that shows freedom lives. No attempt should be made to abrogate what has now crystallised into a right without the widest possible consultation.
As a society, we ought to tread carefully. I urge the Parliament to solicit the views not only of the criminal practitioners, but the entire society.
I also urge the society to lend their voice to their views on an issue that affects them.
Port of Spain