Jury courts at O’Meara judicial centre ready for trials

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FROM WEDNESDAY, jury courts at the O’Meara judicial centre will be designated as a place for the sitting of the Supreme Courts and Summary Courts for criminal cases, the Judiciary said in a statement on Sunday.

The announcement of the availability of the O’Meara judicial centre, located at the former UTT campus at the O’Meara Industrial Estate, Arima, for criminal matters, was made in the Gazette on April 28, signed by Chief Justice Ivor Archie.

The Judiciary said cases selected for hearing there will be announced and published as they arise.

In March, the latest practice directions for the courts allowed for the resumption of jury trials. The rules noted safety measures to protect jurors, court staff and other users from covid19.

Jury trials were halted two years ago as one of the measures to protect staff and other court users in March 2020.

Newsday was told jury summons have already gone out and it is anticipated that jury trials will resume for matters listed at the Port of Spain High Court by June and July for the San Fernando Assizes.

The practice directions create a “hybrid hearing” where some aspects will be virtual and some in-person. Prisoners will not be brought to court and they can follow proceedings via a live video feed from the remand prisons.

Courtrooms at the Hall of Justice and the San Fernando High Court have been outfitted with large screens and can broadcast live-streams linking prisoners and witnesses in various virtual access customer centres.

Judges have been operating remotely for the most part over the last two years and the only criminal trials which progressed were those where the accused opted for judge-only trials.

The practice directions in March were issued after concerns were raised by at least two judges over the public’s right to access courts after the Prime Minister relaxed the health regulations directing all public servants back to work. It also came after the Prime Minister criticised the Judiciary over the slow pace of justice after pumping millions to provide resources.

The halting of jury trials was also raised as a matter of concern by Director of Public Prosecutions Roger Gaspard, SC.