The Chief Justice said during her feature address to mark the opening of the new law year on Tuesday, January 11, that there are benefits to her suggestion.
“The criminal justice system is in dire need of robust reform. As I expressed in my last address, the time is ripe for our governments to assist the judiciary by including in their legislative agendas, criminal justice reform measures such as provision for the implementation of judge alone trials for specific case types within the context of the constitutionally guaranteed right to a fair trial.”
She said this mode of trial has been tried and tested in other courts in our region, such as in Antigua and Barbuda, and congratulated the twin-island state for implementing judge alone trials in the high court and urged other member states to follow.
“Further, when one considers the plethora of criminal offences triable by a magistrate, there can in my view, be no compelling or objectively reasoned opposition to its implementation. Taking such measures would go a long way towards reducing the backlog of criminal cases in the OECS with no adverse effects on the fairness of the trial process,” she said.
Chief Justice Pereria said Governments could also consider reducing the size of the existing jury.
She explained: “Governments may wish to adopt, short of abolishing the jury system altogether, legislative provision for smaller jury panels. Having judge alone trials, or trials with reduced jury panels will have many benefits, including decreasing the expenditure associated with operating a jury system, which ultimately is in the benefit of the public purse while boosting efficiency, accountability and importantly, public confidence in the justice system.”
She said the criminal justice system cannot remain at a standstill because of COVID-19, stating that, “we must find ways to administer justice despite COVID-19.”