Senate Passes Trial by Judge Alone Bill in Antigua and Barbuda


The Senate of Antigua and Barbuda has passed the Trial by Judge Alone Bill, a significant legislative move that makes the temporary measures introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic a permanent part of the country’s legal framework.

This decision follows the successful implementation of the bill, which initially came into effect as Act No. 8 of 2021, aimed at addressing the backlog of cases caused by the pandemic.

Leader of Government Business in the Senate, Samantha Marshall, highlighted the necessity and effectiveness of the legislation during her debate.

“This bill first came into play in 2021, during the COVID period, when the issue of having jury hearings presented an obvious challenge. The court was closed for a period, leading to a significant backlog of cases. This legislation allowed for trial by judge alone, helping to address the backlog positively,” Marshall stated.

Marshall further emphasized the legislation’s flexibility, noting that it includes provisions for the defendant’s consent or the option to opt for a jury trial. She also remarked on the evolving nature of law and the benefits of the new system, which has been adopted in other common law jurisdictions such as Australia, the UK, and Canada.

“The reality is that there are some benefits in following the way that we’re going now. This legislation ensures that justice is disposed of in an appropriate manner,” she added.

Opposition Senator Shawn Nicholas acknowledged the bill’s effectiveness in reducing the backlog during the pandemic but raised concerns about the need for defendants to have a choice between a jury trial and a judge-alone trial.

She said defendants in all cases should have a choice not just some.

“In principle, no one disagrees that the system works and can work if it’s allowed to.”

Nicholas suggested that while making the legislation permanent, it should be subject to review over time to ensure its continued effectiveness and fairness.

“Make it permanent, but for review over time, which is why we’re here to amend the laws as time goes by,” she proposed.

The Trial by Judge Alone Bill was initially introduced as a temporary measure for two years and extended for an additional year. With the Senate’s approval, it is now a permanent feature of Antigua and Barbuda’s legal system, aiming to expedite the judicial process and ensure timely justice for all parties involved.

Marshall concluded by noting the broader implications of the legislation, particularly in ensuring timely and fair justice in a small society like Antigua and Barbuda.

The passage of this bill marks a pivotal moment in the evolution of the legal system in Antigua and Barbuda, reflecting a commitment to adapt and improve judicial processes in response to contemporary challenges.

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  1. Many time in the USA courts it has been proven that the Jury can be very bias. They have therefore many a times convicted blacks unfairly, and sentenced innocent men to death penalty. Sometimes in the face of overwhelming evidence they pass a guilty verdict. And the sad thing in that system is also that you hardly get an appeal. Only when you have a lawyer fighting hard for you and bring irrifutable evidence to the court, only then you may be lucky to get a re-trial. A judge gives his verdict based on legal evidence of the case. And often when he writes his judgement he explains what brought him to that decision. Juries never do. And they lots of the time are driven by emotions. Not by law. I would prefer a trial by judge alone. However I would like for it to be a three member judge. And in the case of the appeals court I would like to see it increased to a five member judge.

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