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Jury or Judge-Only Trials? What Future for Barbados?
11/11/2020

Should criminal trials take place before a jury or a judge? The question might sound dull, but it is of the utmost importance for the future of Barbados’ criminal justice system.
 
Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Dale Marshall, just declared that Barbados would explore the possibility of implementing judge-only criminal trials. This initiative was first proposed by Cave Hill alum and former Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson, who retired before the proposal was fully explored. The Attorney General made the announcement following the swearing in of Barbados’ new Chief Justice, Patterson Cheltenham, GCM, QC, suggesting that it remains on the judiciary’s agenda 
 
Cave Hill Faculty of Law Lecturer, Dr Janeille Matthews, recently co-edited a book on criminal justice, with her own chapters speaking directly to the topic. Her book - Securing Equality for All in the Administration of Justice – details a dialogue between High, Appellate, and Supreme Court judges from across the English-speaking Caribbean about the region’s approach toward criminal justice. So influential is her text that it was cited by the Barbados Bar Association in their response to the Attorney General’s proposal.
 
Quoting Dr Matthews, the Bar sounded a note of caution and urged the Attorney General to adopt an evidence-based approach in the investigation. Again, following the proceedings detailed in Dr Matthews’ book, the Bar counsels the use of a wide-ranging consultative process, that would probe the efficacy and implications of judge-only trials before pursuing the initiative.
 
To support regional efforts to advance debate on criminal justice, Dr Matthews and the Faculty of Law are developing a new Police Prosecution certificate and another for Magistrates. Providing grounding in criminology, evidence, burdens of proof, and constitutionalism, both certificates will assist in improving the delivery of criminal justice in the Caribbean. They are scheduled to launch in 2021.
 
For more details on the certificates, please contact the  Faculty of Law at lawdean@cavehill.uwi.edu .
 
For more details on the debate, please see Dr Matthews’ book, freely available here.

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