By Kamal Haynes, BVI News Staff
While asserting that non-Belongers should not serve on any jury panel in the British Virgin Islands, Opposition legislator Julian Fraser has raised concern that there have not been any jury trials in the territory for months now.
Speaking in House of Assembly recently, Fraser said the decision to halt jury trials locally was made following the discovery of ‘flaws’ in the current jury selection process.
“It has been brought to my attention that there have been no jury trials in this territory since July 2019. And when I asked the Director of Public Prosecution regarding the issue, I was told that the Jury Act advocates that anyone who has been a resident in the BVI – i.e. an alien for over 10 years – is eligible to serve as a juror. Additionally, persons between the ages of 21 to 60 are eligible to sit as jurors on jury trials in the BVI,” Fraser stated.
He said jurors were instead being selected from the territory’s voters’ list — a selection process that is allowed under the BVI’s Jury Act of 2009.
“What they are saying is because the names are being drawn from the voters’ list, there is something wrong with the list and therefore there should be no jury trials until the law or list is amended. When I asked the Registrar about the matter, the Registrar stated that was a decision of the court, and the decision (that there will be no jury trials) is on record,” Fraser said.
Only Belonger jurors should be allowed
He, however, expressed his belief that persons who are not Belongers should not qualify to become a juror in the BVI.
“If you are not a citizen of a country you should not be a juror, I couldn’t care how long you live here. If you are not a Belonger you should not be a juror. There was a time when such was appropriate, but not today,” Fraser said.
The senior Opposition member said the Registrar told him that a document entitled Jury Bill 2019 was drafted on July 5, 2019. However, the contents and status of that Bill are not yet known.
Fraser, therefore, said he believes the Bill should be brought to the House of Assembly as a matter of urgency to address the issue of no jury trials in the territory.
Judge ordered for new list
Back in October 2019, Justice Ann-Marie Smith after citing several defects to the current register, ordered that the High Court’s list of potential jurors from across the territory be quashed and a new list drafted.
A new jury list is expected to be completed by January 17.