Press Release – Government Press Office, Belmopan – August 1, 2011 - Prime Minister, Hon. Dean Barrow, has signed Orders to bring into force the recently-enacted Indictable Procedure (Amendment) Act and the Juries (Amendment) Act, which provide for non-jury trials in certain criminal cases.

These laws come into force today, 1st August, 2011, and will apply only to those cases where an accused person is committed for trial on or after the commencement date.

Under these laws, every person who is committed for trial for the offence of Murder, Attempt to murder, Abetment of murder or Conspiracy to commit murder, shall be tried before a Judge of the Supreme Court sitting alone without a jury. A non-jury trial in such cases is mandatory.

In other cases, the prosecution will be able to apply to the Judge to order a trial without a jury on certain specified grounds. These include cases where there is a danger of jury tampering or the intimidation of jurors or witnesses, or the complexity or length of the trial is likely to make the trial so burdensome to the jury that the interests of justice require that the trial should be conducted without a jury.

An accused person will also be able to apply to the Judge for the trial to be conducted without a jury on the ground that in view of the pre-trial publicity attracted by the case, he is unlikely to have a fair trial with a jury.

It is expected that the new law will cut down the length of trials and will result in speedy justice for all concerned. It will also save the valuable time of judges and jurors.

The jury system is now diminishing in importance world-wide and there is a growing list of countries which have either abolished jury trials in criminal cases or have given a discretion to the trial Judge to order a non-jury trial on the application of the prosecution or the defence. Among the Commonwealth countries, as many as twenty-two (22) have altogether abolished jury trials in criminal cases. In a few other countries, including the United Kingdom, an application can be made to the trial Judge to order a trial without a jury on certain grounds. In fact, the first juryless trial was held in the United Kingdom in March 2010, on the ground that there was a danger of jury tampering.

The new law which comes into force today is in furtherance of the Government’s agenda to streamline the administration of criminal justice and to bring about better justice for the accused persons and the victims alike.