By Judiciary of Sierra Leone Communications
Sierra Leone’s Chief Justice, His Lordship Justice Desmond Babatunde Edwards has disclosed that Juror Service is still permissible by law even though the death penalty has been abolished for cases such as murder, robbery with aggravation and treason among others.
The Hon. Chief Justice was addressing Jurors during a day’s orientation organised by the Judiciary with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The orientation day marks the end of a week-long exercise organized by the Judicial and Legal Training Institute (JLTI) across the country for four hundred and seventy (470) jurors from Bo, Kenema, Kailahun, Pujehun, Moyamba and Mattru Jong.
The orientation exercise aimed at reaffirming the sacred role of Jurors in the administration of justice in enhancing expeditious trials.
Expressing satisfaction with the turnout on the part of the Jurors, the Chief Justice described their participation as a show of willingness to foster effective service delivery in the judiciary.
Supreme Court Judge, Hon. Justice Alusine Sesay said the jury system was inherited from the legal system of the United Kingdom.
He explained that the system comprises set of people drawn from either the electoral lists or public offices with the sole aim of performing one of their civic duties.
Justice Sesay went on to note that those who are selected are empanelled and mandated by Law to ensure that they try their peers on offences like murder, treason and robbery with aggravation among others. According to him, these offences are triable by jurors as judges of fact and not of law, adding that their role is civic and sacred.
He said, “Jurors are judges of fact and they are required by law and ethics to deliver criminal verdict without fear of favour.”
Justice Alusine reiterated that laws relating to jury service are still in our Law books while same are retained in other countries.
Speaking on the empanelling of jurors, Hon. Justice Alusine Sesay said the 1991 Constitution makes provision for jurors to be above the age of eighteen (18) years and should be of sound mind before being empanelled.
Commenting on summing up, Hon. Justice Alusine Sesay said that it gives the judges the opportunity to give their directions based on the law, adding that it directs the jury while they retire to consider their verdict and urged them to be attentive whilst serving in that capacity as a juror.
While presenting on several topics including empanelling of jurors, Court of Appeal Judge, Hon. Justice Monfred M. Sesay (JA) said for an accused to be guilty, the prosecution must prove its case beyond reasonable doubt and that should be done through convincing evidence presented in court.
Justice Monfred Sesay said jurors have right to cross examine the accused or a witness in court, adding that such should be done through the foreman.
He went further to say that people whose roles are very vital to the public such as medical doctors, paramount chiefs, mayors, teachers in public schools, bank managers and police officers shouldn’t be empaneled as jurors.
On his part, Hon. Justice Reginald Fynn (JA) said ethics is all about doing what is right and as jurors they must know what they stand for and should always stand for what is rights.
He encouraged them to be role models, noting that they are part of the Judiciary and their key responsibility is to ensure effective justice delivery.
Hon. Justice Fynn told the participants that they are expected to be independent, impartial, confidential and above serve with integrity. He said integrity goes far beyond being honest.
He said if any of these attributes is absent in any juror, the credibility of the Judiciary will be undermined.
He warned them to be careful on the use of social media, stating that issues discussed in the ‘deliberations room’ should not be discussed in any WhatsApp group not even with their husbands or wives and children.
“If you are in a group where a particular matter in which you are serving as a juror are discussed, ask the admin to remove you from the group for the moment and later rejoin” Justice Fynn said.
He called on them to desist from corruption and its related offences, describing it as a triable offence.
In her presentation on the topic, Administration and Management and Summoning of Jurors, Preparation and Settlement of Jurors’ list, the Master and Master of the High Court of Sierra Leone, Elaine Thomas-Archibald Esq., said jurors should neither discuss evidence out of court nor out of the deliberations room.
She implored them not to have any association or affiliation that will hinder the delivery of justice or affect the outcomes of verdicts and to always be in court.
She revealed that the Government of Sierra Leone has provided financial support in ensuring that jurors are effective in their work, adding that sitting fee or stipends are now appreciable but also regular and punctual jurors are entitled to access those funds.
The Master and Registrar appealed to them to refuse any influence from anyone in the interest of fair justice.
“Let me stress this, any juror who fails to sign the attendance list is not entitled to a fee that is paid at the end of every session,” she said.
The orientation looked into various subject including the origin and purpose of jury system; the administration, management and summoning of jurors; preparation and settlement of juror lists; general overview of Criminal trails, processes and procedure; empanelling of juror; summing up and verdict including mock sessions; code of ethics for jurors, the press and social media among others.