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Jury Act an ongoing travesty of justice- R. Dancia Penn-Sallah QC

- calls for urgent rectification of Jury Act of 1914
High Court trials from last October had to be adjourned to January 2020 after Justice Ann-Marie Smith ordered that the 2019 jury list be squashed and a new list be drafted because she felt there were several defects with its composition, including that there was not enough representation from the sister islands. Photo: VINO
Former Deputy Premier and Minster for Health and Social Development and Member of the Inner Bar, Mrs R. Dancia Penn-Sallah QC greets incumbent Deputy Premier and Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon Carvin Malone (AL) following the Special Sitting for the opening of the New Law Year of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) at Sakal Place on Monday, January 13, 2020. Left is Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1).Photo: VINO
Former Deputy Premier and Minster for Health and Social Development and Member of the Inner Bar, Mrs R. Dancia Penn-Sallah QC greets incumbent Deputy Premier and Minister for Health and Social Development, Hon Carvin Malone (AL) following the Special Sitting for the opening of the New Law Year of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) at Sakal Place on Monday, January 13, 2020. Left is Premier and Minister of Finance, Hon Andrew A. Fahie (R1).Photo: VINO
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI- “There is an ongoing travesty of justice in this country, and it is that of the jury system. The Jury Act of 1914 is contrary to the rule of law; it is a violation of the constitution and all principles of democracy that we still have that Jury Act on our books. I speak for the profession when I make a call for a very urgent rectification of that.”

Those were the firm words of former Deputy Premier and Member of the Inner Bar, Mrs R. Dancia Penn-Sallah QC while delivering remarks at the opening of the New Law Year of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) at Sakal Place on Monday, January 13, 2020.

‘Many of the laws on our books need to be revised’

The veteran Attorney also issued a call to the Virgin Islands’ legal fraternity to become advocates for social policies and laws.

“This is a real place, with real people and many of the laws on our books need to be revised, and I know we have a government that is receptive to change, and I think we at the bar can be a great assistance and be stronger advocates for especially social policies and social legislation.”

According to Penn-Sallah, in the same way the legal profession advocates for commercial legislation, she believes it is important that it becomes more involved in advocating for policies, and for the enactment of legislation that could help strengthen the social fabric and to promote social justice. “Because it matters,” the former legislator added.

Unfortunate occurrence

While Mrs Penn-Sallah did not go into the details of the Jury Act of 1914, which has seen many amendments over the century of its existence, and where it was in violation of the constitution and a travesty to justice, our newsroom understand there are certain provisions in the law that lawyers have issues with.

It was in October 2019 that Justice Ann-Marie Smith ordered that the 2019 jury list be squashed and a new list be drafted because she felt there were several defects with its composition, including that there was not enough representation from the sister islands.

As a consequence, trials from last October had to be adjourned to January 2020.

Justice Smith had said there was no explanation provided to the court that an effort was made to properly remedy the error and deficiencies of the jury list, which were raised in July of 2019, despite the opportunity to do so.

Shortly after putting a heavy foot on the issue, which had a major effect on some high profile cases, Justice Smith was reassigned to Antigua and Barbuda and His Lordship Justice Trevor Ward, QC was assigned to the Virgin Islands.

The quashing of the jury list and the cancellation of the High Court was described as an unfortunate occurrence by Senior Resident Judge Vicki Ann Ellis, who stated it’s something no court or government wishes to see happen or recur.

Ellis, in her address at the January 13, 2020 Special Sitting, said the matter brought to the fore a concern that has been growing blatantly for many years in the Territory.

She noted the problem has been in existence well before the persons who are currently responsible for applying the Virgin Islands Jury Act, “Unfortunately, though the experience was, it has been a catalyst for constructive progress.”

“It commenced a policy dialogue which is founded in every dynamic society which is ongoing even here today. It is hope that we will finally see the reform of the Virgin Islands Jury Act for the benefit of all of concerned.”

Legislation may take some time- Premier Fahie

Turing her eyes to where the Premier and Minister of Finance Honourable Andrew A. Fahie (R1), other Ministers of Government and Members of the House of Assembly were sitting, Justice Ellis said, “I understand unfortunately that process has been retarded of late but I would urge all legislators to prioritise this matter in the first half of 2020.”

It is her contention that when public safety and security and liberty of subjects are at stake, “There is always a need to act promptly even though with due deliberation.”

In anticipation of this Justice Ellis said that they have taken a review and revision of the jury handbook and it is now in the hands of the Territory’s registrar for publication.

Premier Fahie, speaking to the media following the Special Sitting, agreed there is need for the modernisation of legislations, “Not only for some of the direct thing that they may need in the Magistrate’s Courts, or etcetera, but also legislations to open up the economy. That is why our legislative agenda this year was delivered by the Governor but is the legislation of the sitting government, done by the sitting government, delivered by the Governor but is now tied in the budget for 2020 so that now we have a working work sheet which we give to each ministry.”

The Leader of Government Business noted; however, he could not commit to the court’s call for legislative reform by the mid of 2020.

“Well legislations will take the whole year and into next year because there are a lot of legislations that have to be addressed not just what was spoken about [by Justice Ellis].”

9 Responses to “Jury Act an ongoing travesty of justice- R. Dancia Penn-Sallah QC”

  • bvi (17/01/2020, 10:00) Like (10) Dislike (10) Reply
    WE ALL REGRET NOT PUTTING DANCIA IN THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
  • sins (17/01/2020, 10:14) Like (16) Dislike (2) Reply
    All I will say is the legal system is as corrupt as the other branches of government

    I still can’t get over how they treated Rosan-Burberry
  • The Constitution (17/01/2020, 13:08) Like (10) Dislike (1) Reply
    So she was the Attorney General and still in the inner bar and did not see it then when she had the power to rectify same. She was also the Deputy Gov and a member of the govt. Thing that make you go HHMM.
    • She had the opportunity to fix it! (17/01/2020, 15:16) Like (5) Dislike (1) Reply
      She was AG, Deputy Premier and Deputy Governor and had all the power to fix it then.
  • my 2 cents (17/01/2020, 15:00) Like (2) Dislike (0) Reply
    I thought the purpose of the Law Reform Commission (does it still exist?)was to review and recommend ammendments/modifications of laws. What gives?
  • DON Q (18/01/2020, 05:17) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    Her usual talk talk talk
  • ReX FeRal (18/01/2020, 06:18) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    When people in positions of power begin to act like they know more than the people they serve you get this failure in leadership.


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