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The High Court


Last week we looked at the procedure in a trial of the accused in a criminal matter in the High Court and we concluded with how a voir dire is conducted. We noted that it is used to determine whether certain evidence is inadmissible. Where the defence lawyer questions, for example, a confession given by the accused, the Court must, in the absence of the jury, hear arguments from both the Prosecution and Counsel for the Defence on that issue. This week we will continue to look at the procedure in a criminal Court.{{more}}


After both sides have put forward their argument, the judge will determine whether the evidence is admissible or not. If the evidence is inadmissible and where the prosecution has no other evidence to depend on, the Judge will instruct the jury to give a verdict of not guilty. If the evidence is admissible then the trial will continue and the prosecutor will continue with the examination of the witnesses. Upon the completion of the examination, the cross examination and re-examination of the witnesses for the prosecution, the Defence Counsel could make a submission that there is insufficient evidence to convict the accused. The judge will listen to arguments from both sides and if he agrees with the Defence that there is insufficient evidence the case would come to an end and the accused would be allowed to go free.

Case continues

If the Defence Counsel is unable to convince the judge that there is insufficient evidence, then the case must go on. The accused is now allowed to bring forward his witnesses to give his side of the case. The witnesses would be examined by Defence Counsel and cross examined by the Prosecutor and re-examined by Defence Counsel. The next step is for the two sides to address the jury. At this stage the Prosecutor will give an overview of the evidence against the accused. He will try to convince the jury that he has proven his case beyond reasonable doubt and that they, members of the jury, must bring back a verdict of guilty. On the other hand the Defence Counsel will also review the evidence that is favourable to the accused and try to convince the jury that the accused is not guilty and should be acquitted.

The Judge’s Summation

The case against the accused is concluded with a summation by the judge. The duty of judge is to give an overview of the evidence to explain the law and give directions to the jury as to how to proceed. The judge has an important role to play because his actions or omissions could become grounds for appeal if the accused is found guilty.

The Jury’s Verdict

The jury will proceed to the jury room where they will examine the evidence and come to a verdict. They can take with them or ask to see again exhibits that were tendered in the case. If there is a matter that is not too clear, they can ask the judge to explain, but they must examine the facts and come to a decision on their own. If they make a decision within two hours of their consideration in a non-capital matter, they must be unanimous on that decision, that is, all nine jurors must agree one way or the other. After two hours have elapsed, a verdict of seven jurors shall be accepted. In a capital matter, such as murder, the verdict must be unanimous, that is all twelve jurors must decide one way or the other.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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