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Answer call to serve Jamaica, judge appeals to potential jurors

Published:Thursday | January 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Thomas
Justice Bertram Morrison

High Court Judge, Justice Bertram Morrison, is urging civilians who are asked to serve as jurors to fulfil their civic duty and not to seek excuses to avoid participating in the administration of justice in the courts.

The judge made the call following a disappointing turnout of jurors on the opening day of the St James Circuit Court's Easter session earlier this week, where it was revealed that only 24 out of 424 prepared jury summonses were served on prospective jurors.

"We have to undertake our civic responsibilities and not cower in silence. You need to become active members in society and actively participate in the administration of justice," Morrison stated.

"Do not expect that for a mere cough, you are going to be excused. Do not expect that for any niggling injury you have, you are going to be excused. You have to develop a frame of mind to come and serve your country."

Morrison's call was reminiscent of similar outcries made in recent years by other High Court judges who have experienced similar situations at previous sittings of the St James Circuit Court.

In 2012, of the 423 summonses prepared for the Circuit Court's Easter session, 68 were served, but only 32 were obeyed. In 2013, 800 summonses were issued for the court's Michaelmas session, but fewer than 50 jurors obeyed their summonses.

High Court Judge, Justice Courtney Daye, who presided over the 2012 Easter session, expressed serious concerns about the capacity to dispense justice when jurors are refusing to respond to the summonses issued to them.

"Jury duty is looked at as a burden and interference in your domestic affairs, but really, it is a social duty where you participate in the administration of justice in your country," Daye said at the time.

In the 2013 Michaelmas session, Justice Lloyd Hibbert stated: "Because we do not have jurors, the (justice) system is like a chain, and like any chain, if a link is broken, the whole chain is broken. If we have a breakdown in the administration of justice, what we will have happening is that people take the law into their own hands, and that is something we cannot afford at this time."

For this year's sitting of the Easter session of the St James Circuit Court's, 124 matters have been listed for hearing, of which 45 are for breaches of the Law Reform Fraudulent Transactions (Special Provisions) Act (lottery scamming), 34 murder, and the remaining 45 range between sexual offences, burglary, assault, and wounding.