Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Jury's Out On This One

Attorney General Kim Wilson announced today a number of government suggestions on widening the pool of jurors available for jury. Included were ideas of increasing the age for jurors beyond 65 and (my personal favorite) bring ex-pats into Bermuda's juries.

That's right. Ex-pats. People who posses no right (and never will posses it) to Bermudian status. People who are liable to be kicked off the island every time their work permit comes up for renewal and people who have no attachment to this island other than the fact that its their temporary home.

The Bermuda government has no right to force an Ex-pat into a jury just as it has no right to force one into the regiment.

The Government is going to have to work with the status holders it has. Or perhaps create a few more. There are a few thousand long term residents out there who are being wrongly denied their right to status. They're already here, they're not going anywhere, granting them status isn't putting any further strain on Bermuda's resources. But of course lets not turn this into a rant about why PRC holders should be granted status.


Another possible idea is one that was floated a little while back. Professional jurors drawn from various countries in the Caribbean area and shared amongst the Caribbean nations. Granted it has some problems of its own but, it's certainly an idea that should be discussed because it's quite clear that while Bermuda's legal system needs an overhaul, it would all be for nothing if they can't even put a jury together.

Wishful Thinking


  1. I don't see any problem with putting ex-pats on juries, and am surprised it does not already happen, given the limited pool of available jurors. Just like Bermudians, ex-pats can be victims of crime, and they can also be in the dock being judged by Bermudian jurors.

    By virtue of being in Bermuda they avoid being called for jury service in their home country, so they don't lose anything by being eligible in Bermuda.

    I'm a spouse of a Bermudian. I don't know whether or not I'm eligible for jury service. Although it's a pain to have to do it, in principle I would support anybody who is living legally in Bermuda being eligible.

    I wouldn't support the idea of professional jurors. That's not judgement by one's peers - may as well dispense with a jury altogether if that's the route you're going down.

  2. It may be controversial, but another alternative is to allow judges to hear more cases - without juries.

    Jay - I think spouses of Bermudians are eligible - once they receive status at the 10 year point.

  3. Jay how can you advocate someone who legally has very few rights in this country being forced to serve on a jury? If one expects ex-pats to take on the responsibilities of a citizen one must give them the rights of a citizen but, we all know that no one wants to go down that road.

    As for allowing judges to hear more cases without juries I can't say I could ever support that. I'm a firm believer in the right to a trial by jury of your peers but, then again in a society as small as Bermuda that may become necessary at some point given the way we are going.

  4. Thanks anon - certainly Bermudian spouses should be serving on juries.

    Nioe - why should those with so few rights serve on juries? I don't see it as a question of rights and responsibilities. It's a question of balancing how much inconvenience and distress it would cause to ex-pats against the benefits to the criminal justice system.

    There's also a minor benefit to ex-pats: if they end up on trial, they might be grateful to have a couple of ex-pats on the jury which, after all, is supposed to be a jury of one's peers.

  5. There are many things that are convenient but, are not practiced for various reasons. Trial by juries is one of those things, we maintain that because it is a right.

    Morally I could support forcing ex-pats to serve on juries no more than I could support forcing them to serve in the regiment. It's wrong in both cases.

    If you wished to strongly adhere to peer part of trial by peers then we would need a system where ex-pats were tried by ex-pats and Bermudians by Bermudians. We don't want to go down that road.

    There are also the issues with whether ex-pats could be guaranteed as uncompromised. The government has the power to kick an ex-pat off the island. It's an extreme idea but, still possible.