Going to Court
As a Juror
Practice Direction 5 (Amendment Provisions) of 2020, currently guides the conduct of jury trials. For your information on how jury trials are currently conducted, please see the link to Practice Direction 5 (Amendment Provisions) of 2020 here.
Jurors are tremendously critical to the administration of justice. They are randomly chosen to give a verdict in criminal trials at the end of consideration of the evidence. The verdict they return must be arrived at after being so convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. Jury service is a most important civic duty.
Juries of 7 or 12 people are needed for criminal trials, and without them, jury trials cannot proceed. Persons eligible to serve: every Belonger qualified to be on the elector’s roll, and aged between 21 and 65 years, and not otherwise disqualified or exempt, are eligible to serve as jurors.
Disqualified Persons: If one is not a British Dependent Territories Citizen with a right to live in the T.C.I., or if one has been convicted of treason, perjury or an arrestable or infamous offence, and have not received a pardon thereof, one is disqualified from serving as a juror. If one is illiterate, or of unsound mind, or if one has a physical or mental infirmity, then one is also disqualified from serving as a juror.
Employer’s Obligation: Your employer is obligated to allow you time to serve as a juror. It is your civic duty, and no one can impede or prevent you from this impressive and important service to the community.
As a Litigant
The public is entitled to access to the Court, as jurors, but also as parties. Parties to the matters before the Court are called litigants, and they are entitled to attend Court when their matters are to be heard.
When before the Court as a litigant, you are entitled to have counsel present. You may also represent yourself, as is often in divorce proceedings. It is always encouraged that litigants should engage the services of counsel to represent them in their matters.
You are expected to attend Court on time for your matter, on the date and time specified. If you are uncertain of your date or time for your matter, you have the right to check the Registry to get the accurate information.
As a Witness
As a witness, you come at the instance of the litigants in the matter or may be invited to assist the Court as an expert witness.
You will be advised as to the date and time when you should attend Court. Your prompt attendance will allow for the timely operation of Court. Of course, the length of time you will be there for depends on the extent of your testimony, and just how much attention the lawyers, or even the Judge, may pay to you.
Some persons fall within the category of “vulnerable witnesses”:
It may be that your experience is one of trauma, and the nature of your interaction with an accused person might make you susceptible to undue influence. It may be that your life might potentially be in danger due to the nature of your testimony.
A vulnerable witness is automatically entitled to the protection of the Court. This may come in the form of police presence at all material times, to ensure the witness’ safety on the day slated for testimony. It may be that a social worker may be present with the witness, for moral and emotional support, usually in matters of sexual assault, or where the witness is a minor. Especially for minors, even in the courtroom, there is protection by way of a screen placed between the minor witness and the accused person, to give the witness an acceptable level of comfort.
The purpose of all this is to bring the witness to a point where he or she feels sufficiently comfortable to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
As an Observer
It should be noted that legal proceedings are, generally speaking, matters of public record. Therefore, ordinarily, a member of the public is entitled to walk in off the street and sit in the gallery to observe the proceedings.
There are, however, some basic rules that one must follow when attending Court. For example, the method of dress is most important. Also, it is important that when attending a Court hearing, be it trial or just a matter being brought up for “mention” (for hearing by the Court in the course of preparation for possible trial), that you have your electronic devices turned off. If it is not feasible for them to be turned off, then they must be muted, placed on vibrate mode or silent. At no point must there be an interruption in the Court proceedings by sounds made by electronic devices. To do so will almost certainly render you in contempt of Court, and liable to whatever penalties the Court may see fit to impose.
As an observer, you are not to speak unless addressed by the Court. Only then can you speak to the Court. Remember that you are an observer, primarily, not a participant, and as such, your main sense in operation is your sight, not your sounds. The same principle of the electronic device applies to the individual’s own expressions. “Silence in Court” is the watchword.
These principles apply to the Magistrate’s Court, Supreme Court, and the Court of Appeal.