Legal minds continue discussion on trial by judge only bill

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By Elesha George

[email protected]

The Cabinet has placed the Criminal Procedure (Trial by Judge Only) Act on hold to allow for further discussion among stakeholders.

This latest decision was taken during a Cabinet meeting on November 18, and follows initial discussion between the Antigua and Barbuda Bar Association and the drafters of the bill.

The bill proposes to provisionally alternate trials by a jury for specific indictable cases in relation to offences against property – for example larceny and fraud — in the High Court.

Representatives of the High Court and the Bar Association are expected to hold continuous meetings to discuss concerns with the bill’s enactment.

The bill will be brought before Cabinet following further talks, which are expected to give all those involved a better understanding of what the legislation is meant to achieve.

Among other things, the bill proposes that a presiding judge has the power of a jury in trials where a jury is not present. An accused person can also elect to be tried by a judge alone, according to the draft legislation.

The Act does not include sexual offences matters.

The legislation is tipped to play a major role in reducing a backlog of criminal cases that have piled up since the cancellation of jury trials due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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