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UK barrister: Fix, don’t remove, jury trials
London-based barrister Anand Beharrylal does not agree with Government’s proposal for judge only trials. He said instead there should be efforts make the jury system more efficient.
Beharrylal spoke with the T&T Guardian after presenting a seminar on appeals to the Privy Council at Royal Hotel, San Fernando on Wedneday. He added his voice to several others in the legal fraternity who are not in favour of replacing trial by jury with trial by a judge.
“It is something that has been mentioned before but I am not in favour of abolishing jury trials simply because one of the main concerns in Trinidad and Tobago is people feeling disconnected from the institutions.
“They always feel like they are on the outside. The jury system affords an important role for ordinary people to play in the administration of justice in their own country and particularly where the liberty of the subject is concerned and, dare I say. whether the subject should live or die, because murder carries the death penalty.”
Beharrylal said the only circumstances in which a jury should not sit in a criminal case is where there was clear evidence produced by the police that the jury had been interfered with.
“In those circumstances, very limited, a judge should then try the case and that is a change that has been made in England as well,” he said.
Beharrylal said there is a great need to invest more heavily in the magistracy and the judiciary in the High Court and Court of Appeal to increase the number of judges.
“I have long advocated that what is needed are regular part time judges who sit to hear the less serious cases to clear the backlog so that the permanent senior judges at the Hgh Court and the senior magistrates can try the more serious cases and devote all of their time to that,” he said.
“That is a system that features in other countries. It is modelled on a system in England where you have deputy magistrates and part time recorders of the Crown Court and deputy High Court judges where they sit for a fixed period, a minimum six weeks for a year.
“It also has an added benefit because they sit on a daily rate and are not salary judges, but on a pension. It is cheaper for the public because you are only paying them for the work they do as you would do for any kind of self employment.”
Beharrylal, who has been practicing law for 20 years and has provided advisory services to attorneys in T&T and throughout the Carribean for the past ten years on presenting appeals to the Privy Council, also thinks it was a bad idea to abolish the Privy Council as this country’s highest appellate court.
“It is a matter for the people of Trinidad and Tobago but what I would say is where you have access to agruably the best appellate court in the world, that is not a right you should give up easily or without serious consideration as to what you are getting in return.
“My view is that in the current state of Trinidad and Tobago and the way in which public institutions are perceived, it is not the right time to abolish the Privy Council which continues to serve Trinidad and Tobago in a very highly efficient and highly effective way,” he said.