Two Fridays ago, a Gleaner article entitled: ‘Llewellyn hopeful stipend for jurors will be increased’ began with the following words: “Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn has expressed hope that the stipend being paid to jurors will soon be examined with a view to increasing the amount to encourage more persons to serve.”
At the start of the Hilary Term in the Home Circuit Court this week, Llewellyn lamented the chronic shortage of jurors affecting the justice system, calling for an examination of the process of selecting and serving jurors. She said the crisis was now at the worst she has seen it in years.
At a Rotary Club of Kingston luncheon at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Thursday, Llewellyn expressed confidence that Justice Minister Delroy Chuck and other stakeholders would bat for an increase in the stipend, noting that it was one issue resulting in Jamaicans’ apathy to performing their civic duty when called to serve as jurors.”
The reported comments of the DPP are cause for deep concern if we are to uphold the principle and practice of justice for all, regardless of colour, class or creed.
They, however, serve as timely and timeless reminders that the following are of urgent and utmost importance when Jury Duty calls:
1. The need to again increase the stipend for Jurors At present, Jurors reportedly get $2,000 per day, which (since 2015) was an increase from $500 per day. That $2,000 is expected to cover at least his or her travelling expenses and perhaps lunch. This is so, even if his or her travelling expenses and lunch exceed the stipend!
One sincerely hopes that the “hopeful” disclosure by the DPP will become a reality in short order.
2. The need to expedite the disbursement process to the Jurors. It is no secret that in a number of instances the stipend takes a longer time than expected to get into the hands of Jurors. To make matters worse, some Jurors have to spend additional money out of their own or borrowed resources to get the promised stipend.
3. The need to expand the pool of Jurors. In Section 2 of the Jury Act the list of persons exempted include the following: • Officers holding appointments and receiving salaries in the public service of Jamaica Attorneys-at-law in actual practice • Ministers of religion following no secular occupation • Medical practitioners in actual practice • Secretaries of Parish Councils and School Teachers
From as far back as 2003, discussions on justice reform resulted in the recommendation that there be a review of the manner in which jurors were selected to serve on the jury panel of a coroner’s court.
In this regard, tertiary-level students and ministers of religion were specifically targeted for inclusion in the jury pool.
The above-mentioned Jury Act begs the following questions: “Why were these persons exempted in the first place? What was the reasoning and the rationale behind such legislation?” In the words of a prominent public prosecutor at that time, “These exemptions were granted so as not to tie-up these people’s time in court trials.” In the specific case of ministers of religion, an unwritten and unstated belief is that they are exempted because it was feared that they would be more on the side of leniency and mercy than on enforcement and judgment.
4. The need to ensure Jurors are protected, as much as possible. The fear-factor among Jurors and prospective Jurors is real. I know of a Juror who, when leaving the Courtroom and entering her car (which was parked in the nearby parking-lot) a man came approached her and said, “You don’t know me but I know you and know where you live. Be careful how you decide this case!”
5. The need to launch a campaign encouraging more citizens of Jamaica to become Jurors.
This, of course, is self-explanatory… Shalom