Barbados exploring judge alone trials | News

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Nov 2, CMC – Barbados is exploring the possibility of implementing judge alone trials and is awaiting further dialogue on the issue with members of the judiciary and the Bar Association, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Dale Marshall,  has said.

Speaking after the swearing in of the island’s fifth Chief Justice, Patterson Cheltenham, by Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, Marshall indicated that the matter was first raised by former chief justice Sir Marston Gibson, who retired before it could be properly explored.

However, the Attorney General noted that one advantage of a judge alone trial is that it would eliminate the need for a jury.

“A lot of time and effort is spent by the judge reviewing the evidence, giving directions to the jury so the jury can then go away and deliberate,” he said.

Marshall said in contrast, having heard the evidence, a judge would be in a position to evaluate the evidence and give a decision, thereby eliminating the time that was spent dealing with a jury during a trial.

“There are some things more quickly grasped by a judge who is a judicial mind that jurors would take a bit of time to deal with. But the fact is that anytime that you are moving away from the venerable notion, or venerable principle, that a person in serious cases should be tried by a jury of his peers, careful consideration has to be given to it,” he outlined.

The Attorney General stated this was a matter that would require careful consideration, as a trial by jury was something that Barbados had from the time there was a judicial system.

“We would have to reflect carefully on any effort to take that right away,” he noted.

Trinidad and Tobago currently allows for judge alone trials after Parliament amended  the Supreme Court of Judicature Act by inserting after the word “jury” the words “or Judge as the case may be,” among other measures.

Marshall also announced that the new Chief Justice is expected to launch an e-filing system for the judicial system that would render the litigation process paperless soon, and speed up the rate at which matters are handled.

“Very shortly, we expect to launch the e-filing system. This is the system employed by the Caribbean Court of Justice. That system will see the entire process of litigation being rendered paperless. All of the filings will be done on an electronic platform,” he said.

Marshall said that the launch of the system was delayed due to cyber security issues, which were currently being addressed.

“Very early in the term of our new Chief Justice, a matter of days, maybe weeks, he will be able to preside over the launch of the e-filing system. The technology when used effectively, will see cases being done faster…and judges will give decisions at a much faster rate,” Marshall said.

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