British Virgin Islands

Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021

If we can carry news to COI, we can sit on a jury - Premier

If we can carry news to COI, we can sit on a jury - Premier

Premier Andrew Fahie is disputing the notion that the BVI’s jury pool may be too small because of the territory’s tiny size and tight-knit community.

One of the concerns previously raised is about the BVI’s existing policy that only Belongers living in the territory for 10 years or more are eligible to become jurors.

And although two leading authorities in the local criminal-justice system – the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and the Commissioner of Police – recently told the Commission of Inquiry they share this concern, the notion seems to bear no weight for the Premier.

Speaking in the House of Assembly (HOA) recently, Premier Fahie said: “If we’re good enough to carry news to have a COI — and make sure that we carry information other than news or whatever we carry to have it — we’re supposed to be good enough to sit in the courthouse in the jury box and still determine if people are guilty or innocent.”

“We cannot have our people having that kind of fortitude (of making complaints to the COI) and then telling me if it comes to certain cases, that because of our close-knit [nature] in the BVI, that we cannot have jurors from the BVI to be jurors on the case,” the Premier said.

Ethnic makeup of COI imbalanced

And while referring to the laws that govern a COI in the BVI, the Premier said any selection of persons appointed to conduct a COI should allow for ‘balance’. He said this selection of persons should comprise of people with different ethnic backgrounds and be more culturally aware of persons inside and outside of the territory.

Currently, the team of persons conducting the ongoing COI are all or mostly Britons.

“If our people are good enough to bring information to any sitting person that can do an inquiry … then our people are saying that we are good enough to help police ourselves,” the Premier argued.

The territory’s leader said this is preferred over having a few persons who may not be viewing matters through a particular ethnic lens, and are bringing guilty verdicts every time.

Someone’s cultural view of an issue, Premier Fahie posited, can easily allow them to make decisions that can negatively affect others because of their connotation of how the other person’s culture operates.

COI Act needs update

Meanwhile, Premier Fahie further noted that some aspects of the law surrounding the COI need to be questioned while other elements need to be made more current.

“We don’t like to touch certain things that create certain waves in certain quarters, but we have to make sure that any law that is used now, passes the litmus test of being democratic in the 21st century,” the Premier argued.

The Premier further suggested that a crucial element of good governance also involves a balanced, modern-day partnership where either party in the relationship is able to examine the other – i.e. if the government has concerns about the governor, the a COI should be able to look into this as well.


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