Looming juror crisis
The Editor, Sir:
There is a popular adage which says 'If it isn't broken, don't fix it'. Although the point can be debated, there are, in my view, quite a few things in our blessed island which have needed fixing for over 30 years. Blame can be laid at the feet of our politicians, clergymen, entertainers, parents and many others. The truth is, there is enough blame to go around. My question is: who is willing to make the move to start the change, and when?
Late last year, two jurors were alleged to have perverted the course of justice. The individuals were arrested and charged and will be placed before the court to answer to the charges. Our society became instantly upset by the news that such a perversion may have occurred and many suggestions and comments were offered. I have no doubt that 'this too shall pass as a nine-day wonder', and soon it will be back to business as usual.
My focus, therefore, is rather on how we can fix the broken systems within our country to allow for equity and fairness so that there is little or no room to fuel corruption. I speak in this instance of our jury system. Is it really our goal to have both virtues (equity and fairness) walking together? How long will we continue being the proverbial ostrich?
The system as it currently stands is not fair to persons serving as jurors, nor is it to the country. Some may argue that it has outlived its usefulness but I believe it needs an overhauling and proper management.
Consider for a moment how many persons, having been chosen to serve as jurors, either willingly or reluctantly brave the economic tide and serve. With the service having been rendered, there is an expectation of being reimbursed a portion of the costs incurred. Persons have travelled long distances and crossed many parish borders to serve and have not ever been reimbursed. Yet, despite people explaining to the court that because of their current economic situation(s) they are unable to serve, they have been forced to serve regardless. These practices have left many persons in debt.
Having heard stories of persons not being reimbursed for as many as three years, or not at all, others selected to serve have opted to use whatever means necessary to avoid performing this duty. This, along with the threat on their lives and property, has caused great reluctance by many to get involved.
I am, etc.,
Temple Hall, St Andrew