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Senate votes to adjust requirements for jury trial

The Senate has voted to give effect to a further amendment to the Jury Act by placing in writing the number needed for a majority decision under the reduced jury panel approved last year.

Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Maureen Hyman-Payne, said the latest amendment, which reduced the number of persons who sit in a jury trial from twelve to nine, did not identify the number needed for a majority decision. She explained when the jury poll was for twelve persons it required twelve persons for a majority decision.

Unfortunately, when the reduction was made, there was an oversight as the amendment did not state the number now required for a majority decision.

The proposal presented was that under the nine member jury panel, a majority decision can be reached with seven persons.

The bill was passed with little debate.

The lone member who spoke in opposition was Senator Shawn Nicholas, who queried why the amendment took a full year to be returned to parliament to remedy the clear oversight.

The jury panel was reduced to nine because of the coronavirus pandemic which made it difficult to empanel twelve member juries.

Meanwhile, the Senate also approved an amendment to the Labour Code that adjusts the duration of maternity leave upward from twelve to fourteen weeks.

Senator Hyman-Payne said this amendment fulfilled a treaty obligation under the International Labour Organisation Convention with which Antigua and Barbuda in now in line.

Senator Nicholas, who called the amendment ‘progressive’ noted that previously, mothers would have to use their vacation time immediately after maternity leave to have adequate time to properly bond with their newborns.

Photo: Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Maureen Payne-Hyman
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