Legislators in St. Kitts and Nevis approved an amendment to Jury Act which prevents abuse by citizens who serve as jurors.
Attorney General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, Patrice Nisbett stated that the Government would like to ensure that the necessary measures are put in place to prevent abuse by employers of those who have been selected to perform their civic responsibility
“This leave of absence with full salary is specifically for the purpose of serving as a juror and does not affect the employee’s right to his or her other leave, such as vacation leave or sick leave. The leave of absence for the purpose of jury duty is also for the entire day the employee must serve as a juror. In other words an employee who works the night shift must not be required to work after he has served as a juror during the day,” said the Attorney General.
He also said that an employer who alters a juror’s salary on the grounds of his or her service as a juror commits an offence. And that the employer would be liable to pay the employee his or her full salary for the period in question plus a fine of ten thousand dollars.
Nisbett told lawmakers that it is important that the fate of the accused is of paramount importance in each case as his or her liberty or life may be at stake.
“He has a right to be tried by an impartial jury of his peers. All an employer has to do to respect the provisions of this Bill is to put himself in the place of an accused person whose fate is being decided by a disgruntled jury,” said Mr. Nisbett.
Mr. Nisbett added: “Jury duty is a serious aspect of upholding the rule of law and reporting for jury duty is an equally serious legal obligation. An unfortunate practice has now developed where some employers, refuse to pay their employees in respect of time that would be spent by those employees in carrying out their duties as jurors.”
The Attorney General said the Jury Act came into force in 1914 and it is need of a comprehensive review, especially in relation to the fines and penalties.