Prepare citizens for jury duty - High Court Judge
High Court Judge Justice Sharon George says that citizens who are called to serve as jurors must be properly prepared to play their part in the disposal of court matters.
George made the call on Tuesday during the opening of the September sitting of the St James Circuit Court after lead prosecutor Maxine Jackson revealed that out of over 300 summonses prepared for jury duty, only 56 were served. Of that number, only 25 persons responded and attended court.
"Twenty-five jurors are present, and 15 persons have asked to be excused. It's a worrying trend because we can't have an effective justice system without the cooperation of all, including those who live in the parish," Jackson complained.
"That is a very small number, and it is important that we have the jurors ready to do jury service," Justice George said. "Jury service is very essential because many of the matters cannot be tried by law unless it is by jury."
The issue of potential jurors dodging their civic duty has been a long-standing one in the St James Circuit Court as during the sitting of the court's Easter session last January, only 24 of 424 jury summonses were served on prospective jurors.
In 2012, of the 423 summonses prepared for the court's Easter session, only 32 were obeyed. In 2013, eight hudred summonses were issued for the court's Michaelmas session, but fewer than 50 jurors attended.
High Court Justice Bertram Morrison, who presided over last year's Easter session, said at that time that citizens should stop seeking excuses to avoid jury duty.
"We have to undertake our civic responsibilities and not cower in silence," said Morrison. "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."
For this year's September sitting, 188 cases are expected to be heard. Of that number, 60 are for breaches of the Law Reform Fraudulent Transactions (Special Provisions) Act, or lottery scamming; 57 for murder; and 32 for sexual offences.