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The jury must ‘faithfully try the several issues…’

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Some time ago, we looked at what goes on in court and we ended with the judge’s summation (summary). The judge has a duty to sum up the facts in the case and to examine the appropriate law where necessary. No case is complete without it. It is very important to the jury. We will return to this sometime later. This week we will deal with more detailed information on the jury, whose job is to deal with the facts.{{more}}

A jury is a group of persons selected according to law and given the power to decide question of facts and return a verdict in the case submitted to them. A jury is always chosen for criminal matters in the High Court of St Vincent and the Grenadines and in a Coroner’s inquest in the magistrate’s court.

The law provides for a jury in all criminal cases in the High Court. This provision supports the prevailing doctrine that one should be judged by one’s peers.

To qualify to be a juror, persons must be eighteen years and over but not more than sixty years of age; must ordinarily reside in St Vincent and the Grenadines; must be a Commonwealth citizen; must be able to read and write the English Language and understand the same when spoken; must possess property or hold leasehold of an annual value of $240 or must be in receipt of an annual income of $480.

Certain persons are disqualified from performing jury duty. These include persons who have been convicted of any offence punishable with more than three years imprisonment and who have not received a free pardon; persons who are of unsound mind or are deaf or blind.

Certain categories of persons are exempted from serving and these include members of the House of Assembly, ministers of religion following no secular (worldly) occupation, persons holding appointment under the crown and receiving salaries, lawyers in actual practice and their clerks, bank managers, mariners, the Kingstown warden, members of the police force or prison department; medical practitioners in actual practice; residents of the Grenadines, Cable and Wireless operators, schoolmasters in Government and grant-in-aid schools; chemists, druggists and dispensers in actual practice and dental practitioners actually engaged in practice.

Magistrates are required by law to compile a list of all suitable persons and have the list published in the Gazette and posted at the courthouses and police stations in their districts. The Registrar of the High Court, as additional magistrate, has a duty also to compile such a list and have it published in the Gazette and posted on the notice board outside the Court House.

The Registrar will hear any objection by prospective jurors against inclusion on the list. The list is then sent to the Commissioner of Police for his examination. After the formalities, the names of jurors are entered in the Jury book. The names are drawn by ballot for duty in the Criminal Assizes and in a Coroner’s Inquest.

Some time before the assizes, jurors are summoned. According to the law, there must be at least fifty jurors at the beginning of the assizes. Illness is the only excuse for the avoidance of jury duty and a doctor’s certificate is required. An orientation program is provided for the jury before the opening of the assizes. At this session, the jurors are informed about the procedures and practices of the court so that they would follow what goes on in the courtroom. When you serve as a juror, you are making a worthy contribution to your country.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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