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Senators oppose Trial by Judge Bill

Wednesday, March 15 2017

OPPOSITION Senator Gerald Ramdeen yesterday accused Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi of trying to get the Senate to amend and pass legislation, “which has already been struck down as unconstitutional by the High Court.” Ramdeen made this accusation against Al-Rawi in his contribution to debate on the Trial by Judge Alone Bill 2017 in the Senate.

Claiming that the right to trial by jury is an absolute right in this country, Ramdeen said Al-Rawi must apologise to the Cabinet, the Parliament and the country for bringing such legislation to Parliament.

He added that after doing so, Al-Rawi must do “the decent thing” and resign.

Ramdeen listed several legal notables who opposed the abolition of trial by jury. As he looked through the legislation, Ramdeen remarked, “There is no legitimate aim here. There is no proportionality either.

Recalling that Chief Justice Ivor Archie made certain observations about trial by jury, Ramdeen quoted what he said was correspondence from former Independent senator Dana Seetahal SC (deceased) about this same issue as it pertained to matters that she was involved in. Referring to those same matters, Ramdeen said under the Doctrine of the Separation of Powers, both the Executive and the Judiciary must know their respective places.

Noting there have been 100 murders so far for this year and 467 murders last year, Ramdeen scoffed that the statistics which Al-Rawi mentioned in his contribution, “were irrelevant to to the debate.” Independent Senator Sophia Chote SC said she could not support the bill. She did not see how overloading judges would reduce the backlog in the criminal justice system. Observing that Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Roger Gaspard recently said he did not view trial by juries as attributing to the backlog, Chote said only nine places are allocated for judges in the Criminal Assizes. Saying this has been reduced to seven in recent times, Chote wondered how would “the lucky seven” be able to deal with the hundreds of cases coming their way.

She also argued that the average citizen discharges their civic and civil duty through jury service.

Chote admitted that while jury tampering is a real issue in TT, “juries don’t make a problem in the dispensation of justice.”

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