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What price Justice?.

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    An Act to Amend the Jury Act was passed in the Senate on October 16 2015 and passed in the House of Representatives on December 1 2015. The Governor General gave his assent on December 21 2015 a few days shy of Christmas . Among other things it reduced the number of persons to serve on a Jury in non capital murder cases from twelve to seven and allows for a majority verdict of five of those seven jurors. It is my contention that this particular amendment in the most serious of cases to wit murder ignores not only the gravity of the offence and but reveals a lack of appreciation of the need to have the fullest participation and deliberation before declaring a person a murderer and sentencing them as such.

     

    The argument has been advanced that the panoply of amendments have been passed to have a justice system that is more efficient and to reduce the backlog of cases. In some cases the amendments are welcome including an increase in the number of persons available to serve and an increase in the Jury stipend . However the amendment that reduces the number of jurors in non capital cases and the retention of a majority verdict is not only inconsistent but illogical with the amendment increasing the overall pool of jurors and is more expedient than efficient. Why retain a majority verdict where the jurors in a non capital murder case has already been reduced? The number of cases where there has been a hung jury can be counted on one hand out of the hundreds of murder cases in our courts. Surely the smaller a jury the less there should be a need for a majority verdict. It also has the inherent danger of a lack of full deliberation and taking into account the persuasive value of dissenting views by ignoring them and opting for the expedient majority view .

    Clearly it is hoped that there will be more convictions as a result what else could explain this double edged sword? The fact that members of both Houses also practice at the Criminal Bar is of no moment as the strictures of political compliance snuffs out the light of any candle of hope. This amendment is analogous to the Butcher's knife as the butcher after fattening the legislation with some worthwhile amendments leads the citizen to the slaughter.

     

    Clive Mullings

     

    Attorney at Law