Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Archie: Abolish preliminary enquiries and jury trials

There are currently more than 500 pending murder trials in this country, Chief Justice Ivor Archie said yesterday.

Speaking at the “Dana Saroop Seetahal Symposium: Re-engineering the Criminal Justice System” event held at the Noor Hassanali Auditorium, UWI, St Augustine, Archie said: “There are over 500 people at this point, as we speak, in this country awaiting trial for murder. 

“When I came into office we were speaking about preliminary enquiries as taking about five of the seven years, that it takes an indictable matter to come to trial, so there was a cry for the abolishment of preliminary enquiry. Then there are layers of process which take time and not just time because there is the magistrate and a whole filing system that is created that has to be done again once the matter goes to the High Court, so we are not thinking process. 

“At the other end of the system—and I know I am sailing into choppy waters but I have to say it—we have a jury which is the most inefficient way for conducting a trial,” he said.

“If I had to pick three things this morning I would say; abolish preliminary enquiries entirely. Let the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decide who he would prosecute indictably and who he is going to prosecute summarily. Abolish juries and take a serious look at our words of evidence in particular the rule of law against hearsay,” Archie added.

Gilbert Peterson SC who also spoke at the symposium endorsed the need to eliminate trial by jury. “I also think we need to eliminate jury trials because having a jury there sitting for months listening to evidence but you are telling them complex concepts that law students will take years sometimes to understand some of my colleagues still don’t understand but you are asking jurors to understand complex concepts of law and apply it to the evidence. So I see the need for special juries and I see the Attorney General has made the amendment for special juries but I think it would be advancing the system if you are able to eliminate juries,” he said.