The following Letter to the Editor appears in today’s (28/04/2020) Nation newspaper in a response to Chief Justice for judge-only trials in criminal cases.
Judge-only trials a concern
I REFER to the suggestion by the Hon. Chief Justice for judge-only trials in criminal cases.
An examination of the reading on this matter indicates that such trials may be only appropriate in circumstances where (1) there is a large amount of forensic material as in the case of white-collar crimes; (2) there is conflicting expert and scientific evidence; and (3) there is an overwhelming amount of media coverage and attention prior to the trial which would raise the concern as to whether the jury could remain unbiased and impartial such as in cases arising from terrorism.
A consideration of the first and third circumstances have been at the heart of the ongoing criminal trial by a judge sitting alone in the Turks and Caicos of its former Premier Michael Misick and four former ministers of government.
Apart from the circumstances outlined above, there is little justification for judge-only trials. Section 41 of Juries Act Cap.115B provides that a jury shall not be kept in deliberation for longer than three hours unless in a civil matter the jury unanimously concur to apply to the trial judge for further time, which application must be granted by the Court.
In the context of Barbados, the question arises as to how many multiples of three hours will be required before the judge determines the matter if the law in Barbados was changed.
– CHRISTOPHER BLACKMAN QC