27 April 2020 8h31
Updated at 14h56
Some criminal lawyers argue for trial by jury despite the COVID-19
The canadian Press
The Canadian Press
CALGARY – A group of penologists canadians feared that one of the consequences of the crisis of the COVID-19 is the report of a large number of jury trials, to the detriment of the constitutional rights of the accused.
The president of the canadian Council of criminal defence lawyers, William Trudell, has found that in some provinces, including Ontario and Saskatchewan, the trial before the jury have already been postponed to deal with a growing backlog of trials due to the COVID-19.
“I hope that we do not we will get acquainted not to not have a jury trial,” said Mr. Trudell in an interview with The canadian Press. “I think a lot of people might say: “Hey, let’s proceed before a judge alone because it is more effective and faster” – it is a way terrible to see things.”
Mr. Trudell expressed concern that an such pressure is increased so that the courts are beginning to make plans for the déconfinement. “The judges are going to try and do their job in the best way possible, and one of those ways is to reduce the trial to a jury, but there must be a real resistance, in principle.”
The chief judge of the Court of queen’s bench of Alberta has declared that the court had suggested both the Crown and the defence that there could be ways of looking at a trial before a judge alone in order to reduce the pressure on the system. “In these difficult times (…) I hope that the law society will consider reducing the number of jury trial”, suggested the chief justice Mary Moreau.
But according to Mr. Trudell, few defence lawyers will be interested: “It is the right of the accused to have a jury trial”.
A defender of the rights of the jurors feared that the Canadians will be reluctant to become a juror when the restrictions of public health will eventually be relaxed. Mark Farrant, of Toronto, has developed a disorder of post-traumatic stress disorder following a trial for murder, sordid in 2014; he then founded the canadian Commission of juries, a non-profit organization that helps ex-jurors.
Mr. Farrant wrote to the ministers of Justice of Canada to express its concerns. It asks in particular for an increase of the daily rate of the jurors and the respect of measures of social distancing during the trial. “I think that citizens (candidates for jurors) will have obvious concerns and very real for their safety, for their family and for their livelihood”, he argued.
Mr. Farrant points out that many citizens will come out of this pandemic, is heavily in debt, without a job or with health problems. However, if no action is taken, few people will be eager to fulfil their civic duty. “The jury duty will remain an important pillar of the judicial system. This is not going away and we will need to put in place solutions to deal with what I would call a crisis in the courts.”
Mr. Trudell is advisable that we should take action to improve the lot of jurors, for example, a selection of candidates in line and an increase of the daily rate. “If it is the most important function in a democracy, then the jurors should be paid a fair wage – not everyone wants to do it for a question of money, but because it’s fair,” he said.