By Fareeza Haniff
[www.inewsguyana.com] – A complete examination of the country’s jury system will be undertaken this year. This is according to Attorney General and Legal Affairs Minister, Anil Nandlall, who made the disclosure during his contribution to the ongoing budget debate in the National Assembly on Monday night (April 07).
He told the House that the integral component of the Criminal Justice System has remained untouched since its introduction to Guyana’s legal system some 100 years ago.
“By the sheer passage of time, it requires some examination with a view of effecting modern changes to it, which have already been long done in almost every Commonwealth jurisdiction that retains the institution of the jury. The administration of criminal justice is a two way street. The State and by extension, the victims of crimes and their relatives are equally entitled to a fair trial as is the accused person,” Nandlall said.
According to the Attorney General, during a meeting with the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Constitutional Commission on Women and Gender Equality and other civil society organisations, it was revealed that the wider society has lost, or is rapidly losing confidence in the jury system, especially in sexual offences matters.
He explained that the failure of the State to yield convictions in these types of offences is not only attributable to poor investigation and prosecution but on the jury system must also be blamed.
As such, in an examination of the jury system, he noted that the changes will include a review of the current jury pool with the objective of expanding it.
“Currently, the pool is quite limited and it has been historically confined to just a few entities from which jurors are drawn,” while the qualifications of jurors will be reviewed.
“Currently, they are linked to ownership of property, or earning capacity. Both of these qualifications in today’s society are archaic and irrelevant. In the process, the unanimity verdict in relation to capital offences and majority verdict in relation to non-capital offences of the jury which currently obtains , will also be reviewed.”
He noted that statutory protection against jury tampering and jury manipulation will also be strengthened.
The Attorney General noted that the nation witnessed the travesty of what transpired in the Lusignan Massacre murder case and called for the “brazen manipulation of the Jury system to end now.”