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Judge alone trials to be permanent

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The government is going to parliament today to enact legislation to make

permanent the law providing for trials at the High Court to be presided over by a

judge sitting along without a jury.

Attorney General, Sir Steadroy Benjamin will introduce the Criminal Proceedings

(Trial by Judge Alone) (Amendment) Bill, 2024, when the House of

Representatives convenes a sitting at the parliament chambers today.

The amendment is designed to make trial by judge alone a permanent feature of the

legal system of Antigua and Barbuda. The original law was introduced in 2021

during the COVID-19 pandemic and given a two-year life-span. Last year, it was

extended by a year to expire on June 7 this year. By way of the amendment,

government is moving to have the law made permanent before it expires next


“The rational for making the judge alone trial permanent is that it has helped to

reduce significantly the backlog of cases that has been an issue for the High Court

for several years. Additionally, whilst there have been issues with juries in the past,

having a judge sitting alone makes for timely efficiency in the court system,” legal

sources told Point Express newspaper.

The Ministry of Legal Affairs held discussions with the Bar Association as well as

criminal lawyers to get some input in the proposed legislation. The main

recommendation coming from the Bar Association was that the accused should

have a choice in determining whether he/she wanted to be tried before a jury or a

judge alone. On the other hand, the criminal lawyers did not have much concerns

with its extension.

The original law had a list of offences that would be tried by Judge Alone and

according to the legal sources, there have been no significant changes under the

proposed legislation. The legislation lists all indictable offences under the Larceny

Act, the Forgery Act, the Misuse of Drug Act, Money-laundering and Prevention

Act, the Proceeds of Crime Act, the Firearms Act and the Prevention of Terrorism

Act as among those matters that will fall under Judge Alone trials.

“Once an offence goes before the High Court for trial, then it would be subject to

Judge Alone trial,” the legal sources stated.


Meanwhile, another legislation – the Legal Aid and Advice Centre Bill, 2024, will

have its first reading in the House of Representatives today. Debate on this

legislation will take place at a later sitting as the Ministry of Lega Affairs is still

accepting recommendations from the public on how best to operationalize the


The idea is to set up this centre that will help the less fortunate with legal

representation before the courts. It will also provide for a public defender as part of

the arrangement.

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