Nandlall writes Chancellor urging revamp of ‘stagnant, narrow’ jury pool
As public criticism mounts over the sentencing patterns for several convicted persons, Attorney General, Anil Nandlall, SC, has called for urgent action to remap the existing jury pool to match ongoing work aimed at updating the country’s sentencing guidelines.
The first draft of new sentencing guidelines was completed by the Attorney General Chambers recently and now awaits input from the judiciary before promulgation.
But on Tuesday, Nandlall dispatched a letter to Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag), Justice Yonnette Cummings-Edwards in which he drew attention to the existing “stagnant” and “narrow” jury pool in Guyana and called for immediate action to be taken to revamp same.
A jury pool is the selection of the people who will serve on a jury during a trial; the group of potential jurors is selected using a random method and, in Guyana, they are mostly drawn from public companies.
“Important reforms are taking place in the criminal justice system. Only today I dispatched latter to the Chancellor of the Judiciary conveying the complaints which I received in relation to the stagnant jury pool that exists in Guyana,” Nandlall said during his Tuesday night ‘Issues in the News’ commentary on his Facebook page.
The jury pool in Guyana has not been reviewed in a number of years.
“So, the complaint is that the jury pool is quite narrow, many of the companies that form part of the pool whose employees are drawn to sit on juries those companies no longer exist.
“Hundreds of new companies are not part of the pool so their employees don’t get a chance to discharge this important civic responsibility,” Nandlall said.
More importantly, he questioned whether the current jury poll reflects the current realities in Guyana.
“The principle upon which the jury system is predicated is trial by a jury of the accused peers.
“Does the jury pool from which they are drawn do they now accurately represent the peers of the accused persons?” the AG quizzed.
Nandlall reiterated that his personal concerns and public complaints were adequately conveyed to the Chancellor and he now hopes that there will be swift action in addressing the issue.
Published in the official gazette on August 06, 2022, is the latest list of persons qualified and liable to serve as Jurors for 2022 and 2023.
On Saturday last, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Shalimar Ali-Hack, recommended the scrapping of jury trials for murder accused in the interior regions, and offences such as money laundering, trafficking in persons and cybercrime because of the technical nature of the evidence.
She called on the Guyana government to amend the legislation to allow for judge-only trials and reasons should be provided for both decisions and sentencing.