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Special jury to hear charges in IPO probe

AG: Raising age limit of potential jurors among new proposals...

By Ria Taitt Political Editor

Any criminal matter arising out of the investigations in the First Citizens’ initial public offering (IPO) would be heard by a special jury, comprising persons with expertise in finance, banking, accounting, business, economics, management, securities and investment, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan stated.

The Attorney General was piloting the Miscellaneous Provisions (Administration of Justice) Bill in the House of Representatives which, among other things, raises the maximum age limit for jurors from 65 to 70 years and creates “a specialist jury” with expertise relevant to issues of white-collar crime. 

“Having regard to the recent events which took place, with respect to the trading of securities and shares, if someone is charged arising out of the FCB IPO matter, this law would be used to empanel a jury comprising persons with the relevant expertise so that the trial can be meaningful and purposeful,” Ramlogan said. 

Noting people talked about Government being “weak on white-collar crime”, Ramlogan said the High Court would be able to empanel a “specialist jury” in all cases dealing with offences under the Securities Act, complex fraud, offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act and the financing of terrorism.

Under the bill, all deportees and visitors who are not citizens of Trinidad and Tobago must be fingerprin­ted by a police officer or an immi­-

gra­tion officer at all ports of entry. 

All deportees must also give DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) samples, the Attorney General said. And DNA samples of persons who are charged, but exonerated, must be stored for 20 years, he said. He said there had been so many unsolved cases where DNA has helped that one had to be very careful before destroying a sample. 

Under the present act, a person who is not accused of an offence could have applied to have his/her DNA sample destroyed after three years. But Ramlogan said the longer the period the State can retain a sample, the better the country would be at fighting crime. He added many persons who got off charges did so on technicalities or because they had the better lawyer.

Explaining the decision to increase the age limit for jurors to 70 years, Ramlogan said there was a need to expand the potential pool of jurors. Noting judges spent too much time in jury selection, the Attorney General said persons in the 65 to 70 age group had more free time and more life experience for the job. 

The bill also removes archaic pro­perty qualifications, and sexist conditions (such as a married woman can only sit on a jury if her husband qualifies to sit on any jury). 

It also removes the exemption from sitting on a jury which spouses of judges, members of Parliament, mayors and deputy mayors, magistrates, justices of the peace, attorneys-at-law and members of the Police Service currently enjoy.

Under the bill, employers who try to dismiss employees or prevent them from serving on a jury would face a $50,000 fine and one year’s imprisonment. 

Explaining the increase in the pe­nalty which currently is $1,000 and six months’ imprisonment, Ram­­lo­gan said: “I want to send a war­n­ing to employers. Jury duty is enshrined in the law. You have no business trying to dismiss, intimidate, frustrate or harass any employee who wants to do their civic duty and serve on a jury.”

The bill provides for the removal of information on a juror’s place of abode, work and sex. 

The bill includes that private security officers be among the list of persons who must be mandatorily tested and therefore must give their DNA sample.

The Atttorney General said he had asked for statistics since the passage of the “one strike and no bail” act. He said he was astonished to see the long list of repeat offenders who have been denied bail as a result of this legislation. 

“It will remain one of the single, most important legislative tools in the fight against crime, Ramlogan stated.

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