Jury trials delayed for another three weeks

court matters
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By Elesha George

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Trials set to be heard during the January Criminal Assizes have been pushed back from January 21st to February 15th, at which time the High Court hopes to have Covid protocols in place to include the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) like face shields and masks.

High Court Judge Iain Morley said that there are 147 cases that are ready for trial but have been held up because Covid-19 measures to accommodate the use of jurors have not been put in place.

There is a certain sensitivity with Covid Justice Morley said, adding that “ordinarily the assizes is a very busy court”.

A meeting held on Monday, January 8th, determined that there were no adequate measures in place to begin trials before the 15th of February.

“We’re anticipating that between now and the 15th of February those items will be in place. So, we will not be starting any trial on Thursday the 21st of January as I had hoped and had discussed in a previous term,” the judge told the court.

Orientation and roll call for jurors have also been suspended and may take place later this week. Meanwhile, prosecutors continue to sit in on cases via Skype.

A meeting is scheduled to take place this Thursday so that further decisions can be made on the matter of holding jury trials.

One measure to be considered is hosting trials in parallel courtrooms simultaneously, and using electronic mediums for persons unable to come to court.

Morley recalled a virtual trial that was set up in Montserrat, where he would have presided over the case virtually, noting the possibility of replicating it in Antigua and Barbuda.

The same restrictions forced the suspension of the September assizes last year.

Drafters put forward a Judge-Only Trial Bill in 2020, which they hoped would have been tabled and passed in the parliament to reduce the backlog of trial cases. 

The application of such a bill is still being discussed.

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