BVI News

Serious concerns raised about BVI’s jury laws

The building that houses the High Court in Road Town, Tortola.

Two leading authorities in the local criminal-justice system — the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Commissioner of Police have both raised serious concerns about the laws that govern juries in the BVI.

One of those concerns is the stipulation that only Belongers living in the territory for 10 years or more are eligible to become jurors. 

Police Commissioner Mark Collins said there are a number of high-profile cases currently before the local courts that are affected by this practice.

“That, fundamentally, is a huge issue for the judicial system of the islands – a very small pool of people to call from the jury service and not maximising the opportunities of expanding and extending it (the jury pool),” Police Commissioner Mark Collins told the Commission of Inquiry (COI) this week.

Adding to the discussion in a separate hearing before the COI, DPP Tiffany Scatliffe-Esprit describe the BVI as very “a small community” and said things become “very difficult” when a jury panel has members related to either a victim, lawyers involved in the case, and even witnesses.

Among other things, Section 4 of the Jury Act (Chapter 36) also says a juror must be between the ages of 21 and 60. But DPP Scatliffe-Esprit said the age requirement should start at 18.

Jurors should be isolated from the public during trials

The prosecuting attorney also said the BVI should adopt the widespread practice of sequestering jurors. This means separating jurors from the public; keeping the persons deliberating the verdict away from outside influences that could potentially sway their opinions.

“The problem with the current jury system is, unlike other jurisdictions, we cannot sequester our jurors. So even though the learned trial judge will give them certain directions — don’t speak to anyone, don’t entertain this, don’t look at this …, there is no way to ensure they are doing so. Of course, you have the trust system. You have to trust your jurors, you have to trust that they will listen to the judge, but sometimes we need to sequester them,” she reasoned

Scatliffe-Esprit said sequestering keeps jurors safe and “prevent[s] any form of jury tampering”.

Create an option of judge-only trials

The DPP further said the Jury Act should be amended to allow attorneys from the Crown or the Defence to apply for judge-only trials. After an application is made, the presiding judge in the case will make the final decision on whether a such a trial is appropriate.

Scatliffe-Esprit proposed the option of judge-only trials for serious murder trials or those involving purported gang affiliation. According to the DPP, persons always have a reluctance to be a juror in these trials because “they don’t want to be exposed or they think something will happen to them, etcetera.” 

“These are things I’ve been told by former jurors,” Scatliffe-Esprit stated, adding that the option of judge-only trials should also be available for sexual offences involving minors.

Shares

Copyright 2022 BVI News, Media Expressions Limited. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed.

6 Comments

Disclaimer: BVI News and its affiliated companies are not responsible for the content of comments posted or for anything arising out of use of the comments below or other interaction among the users.

  1. WEW says:

    Well… That keeps it “all in the Family”

    Like 11
    Dislike 1
  2. LILLIAN says:

    THEM DPP ALL OF THEM NEED TO BE CANCEL AND CHANGE REMOVED!!! CORRUPTS

    Like 4
    Dislike 6
  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know how accurate that statement is that only BVI Belongers are on the jury list. It must be a very small pool indeed because the same people are called over and over. Not all BVI Belongers are on the list because I am over the age of majority a long time now and have never been on a jury list. I also know lots of BVI Belongers who have not. The same people are called over and over so its a career for them. Like everything else, it must be a family affiar.

    They could keep that because the criminals are now threatening people.

    Like 20
    • SMH says:

      I totally agree with you. I am a Virgin Islander, now over the age to be a juror, never been in trouble, but have never been selected to be a juror. But, on the flip side, I have worked with individuals who are regularly selected. The problem is at the source, and if the Prosecutors were paying attention, they would realize that they are seeing the same persons over and over, so stop acting blind and behaving as though the BVI only has 500 persons eligible.

  4. Mmmmmm says:

    Bunch of educated fool pitch the bvi under the bus. No sense of direction. Check mate in record time.people open up your eyes and put on your critical thinking hat.

    • Curse says:

      Why don’t they change it from 28-65, this would increase the pool,also if you live in the territory for more than five years, you should be able to sit on a jury.

Leave a Comment

Shares