A judge has warned a businessman of the penalties of obstructing the court when he was summoned for allegedly threatening to fire a member of his staff for attending the opening of the assizes as a juror.
When only 92 of the 93 appointed jurors for this year’s assizes appeared at the High Court on Tuesday, January 16, Justice Rickie Burnett ordered a summons for the missing juror, a woman, to explain the reason for her absence.
She appeared the following day at High Court #2 before Justice Burnett and claimed that “the boss man told me that if I were to attend here, he is going to fire me.”
Justice Burnett then sought the opinion of Crown Counsel, Renee Simmons given her experience in the courtroom.
“My Lord, I’ve been in courts…when there was a jury member…she was having difficulty with her employer,” Simmons shared. She added that the employer was summoned and he was given “a very stern warning so he understood the procedures. Given what she is saying, I do think that this would be best.”
“That’s exactly what I’m going to do Counsel,” Burnett replied. The judge then summoned the businessman to appear before him. When the gentleman arrived, Burnett introduced himself and informed him of the reason for his summons. “Yesterday, the criminal assizes commenced and as you may or may not know, our criminal justice system, we have several stakeholders as it were. There’s a judge, lawyers, prosecution and importantly, there is a jury as well.
Ordinary Vincentians, they are summoned to come every sitting to help to participate in justice. If we have no jurors, we may have no criminal court because that is the law that we have; judge and jury. Justice Burnett further told the businessman that at the commencement of the assizes, 92 jurors were present from several business places across St Vincent and the Grenadines. However, one juror was absent and that juror was summoned to court to give the reason for her absence. He informed that certain information had come to his attention and he believes that there was a misunderstanding of sorts by someone.
“Is the…[woman] a member of your staff?” Burnett questioned. The gentleman responded in the affirmative.
“She was summoned to be here yesterday but she was absent,” Burnett continued.
The businessman responded that he “never told her not to go to court.” He said that he told her that he is going to hire someone, but never said that he is going to lay her off.
“If she has to come to participate in the system as a juror, you are going to have her replaced?” Burnett questioned for clarification.
“I will add one more staff,” the businessman answered.
“She will still be paid by you?” The judge further questioned. The businessman responded in the affirmative, and added that he has no difficulty with his employee participating in matters concerning the court and she will indeed remain an employee of his.
“No deduction at all, I never said anything,” the businessman continued, and added that he did not even know that his employee was required to appear in court on January 16. The businessman said that he does not want to obstruct the court at all, and knows that all persons are under the law. The judge made it clear that consequences will follow if one obstructs the court, such as being charged. He also told the businessman that he is to warn other employers of the consequences they will reap if they are ever to obstruct the court. SEARCHLIGHT was ordered not to publish the names of the employer, the employee, and the business place and not to take any photos relating to the matter.