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Published:Saturday | April 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Time to overhaul jury system


I share The Gleaner's concern (editorial 'Revamp jury system now', April 19, 2012) about the jury system, especially since it is the only safeguard against bias and unfairness in a trial, as it involves the concerted effort of 12 of one's peers.

For years now the Advocates Association of Jamaica, a grouping of trial lawyers, has been suggesting that the method of serving, and thereby summoning, jurors to the Circuit Courts, particularly so in Kingston and St Andrew, be changed. Based on the information, we have the section of the Jamaica Constabulary Force which handles the matter, and is designated the title of 'Courts and Detention', is poorly staffed and underequipped.

To give two police personnel 200-300 summons to serve, with the use of one motor vehicle to do so, is a colossal waste of time. Empirical evidence will confirm that the greatest problems with jurors are experienced in Kingston and St Andrew. This is so in the circumstances where most householders are away from home between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. and so service has to take place outside these hours in order to be effective.

It has been suggested that summonses be dispersed to the 35 police stations in Kingston and St Andrew, in batches of 10, for service on citizens in various communities throughout the parish served by those police stations.

We need to stop complaining and change the system of service of summonses to a more practical and effective one.

In addition, citizens have lost interest in the court system, unless, of course, they are directly involved. This is so because over the years they have been excluded from the courts, especially so in the case of in camera trials.

It is time to revert to the tried and proven position of allowing the public access to view trials and to see the importance of jurors and the jury system.