Jury Trials Could Be For The Chop In Barbados.

Photo: Barbados Government Information Service. It is possible that the Barbados judiciary is considering trials without juries.
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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados–Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Dale Marshall, is awaiting further dialogue with members of the Bench and Bar on the possibility of implementing Judge Alone Trials in Barbados.

Judge Alone Trials may also be known as ‘bench trials’ in some jurisdictions, and are usually available in any case where the defendant would prefer to be tried by a judge alone, and not by a judge and jury.

Marshall made this disclosure after the swearing in of Barbados’ fifth Chief Justice, Patterson Cheltenham, by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason at Government House today.

Mr. Marshall indicated that the matter was first raised by former Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, who retired before it could be properly explored.

However, the Attorney General noted that the biggest advantage of a Judge Alone Trial was that it would eliminate the need for a jury.

“A lot of time and effort is spent by the judge reviewing the evidence, giving directions to the jury so the jury can then go away and deliberate,” he said.

Mr. Marshall pointed out that in contrast, having heard the evidence, a judge would be in a position to evaluate the evidence and give a decision, thereby eliminating the time that was spent dealing with a jury during a trial.

“There are some things more quickly grasped by a judge who is a judicial mind that jurors would take a bit of time to deal with. But the fact is that anytime that you are moving away from the venerable notion, or venerable principle, that a person in serious cases should be tried by a jury of his peers, careful consideration has to be given to it,” he outlined.

The Attorney General stated this was a matter that would require careful consideration, as a trial by jury was something that Barbados had from the time there was a judicial system.

The right to a trial by a jury of one’s peers was enshrined in British law long before Barbados became a colony, but the same right does not necessarily exist in jurisdictions that have a history as colonies or territories of Spain.

However the Barbados government has indicated in a number of recent initiatives that it may wish to distance itself from its British heritage.

“We would have to reflect carefully on any effort to take away (the right to trial by jury),” Marshall remarked.

It is not known whether the move towards Judge Only Trials is related to the problems of safeguarding a jury during the time of Covid-19 quarantines and precautions, as the Barbados government press release of yesterday does not address that issue.

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