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A suitable substitution

Chief Justice Richard Ground said he does not believe in a ‘gun court’ in Bermuda where a panel of judges preside alone, saying Bermuda’s juries do a good job.

He said gun courts in Jamaica (which ban members of the press and public from attending) did nothing to reduce the level of gun crime, but that is not really the issue that is at stake here.

A recent case highlighted some of the problems associated with picking juries in Bermuda when the selection process went on for several days due to a variety of reasons including the issue of some potential jurors knowing the defendant.

Because Bermuda is such a small island, it is almost certain that even if a jury member does not know the defendant, members of their family will and that members of the defendant’s family will also know the jury member or his family.

That can create enormous pressure, especially if it is a high profile crime being tried a gang-related murder or shooting, for instance.

While the jury system in Bermuda appears to be working well and there appears to be public confidence in the system, consideration should be given to some judge-only trials where a panel of judges replaces the jury for high profile, complex or long-running cases. The experience of Northern Ireland shows that trials involving organised crime can be dealt with efficiently and effectively by a professional court.

Or perhaps it could be a system where the defence or prosecution could opt for judge-only trials, if they are able to provide a reason for them.

Whatever the system, perhaps as Bermuda continues to suffer very serious crime it is the time to consider alternatives.

Chief Justice Richard Ground (Photo by Akil Simmons) March 26,2012

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Published March 29, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 29, 2012 at 9:25 am)

A suitable substitution

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