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Parliament

No more assessors in court

February 11, 2021 4:45 pm

The Abolition of Assessors Bill has been passed in parliament, which means there will be no more assessors sitting in court trials.

Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum says there is a clear indication of the decline of the advocacy of the lay assessors system and a lot of people are not interested to sit in as assessors.

Sayed-Khaiyum says the assessors’ system is an archaic provision in the Act which has become problematic.

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He says Fiji and Vanuatu were the only two countries that were using this system.

He says the societal view of lay assessors may often be in direct competition to the progressive view of modern law.

“In order to greater facilitate timely access to justice its imperial that a more streamline process be developed. Case are often late, also sometimes you wouldn’t find suitable assessors within the suitable time slots for all the interested party. This delays of cause are not justifiable and the final decision rest on the judges and not the assessors. “

He says judges sometimes are not able to overturn the decision of lay assessors even though when those decisions are uninformed.

In responding to SODELPA MP Niko Nawaikula who said the lay assessors system serves well the different communities we live in, Sayed-Khaiyum says such comments are what leads to stereotypes, and very wrong for an officer of the court to be insinuating that.

“In the modern day world a person’s guilt or innocence should not be determined by assessors who are going to look at the person on an ethnic basis.

National Federation Party Leader Professor Biman Prasad says it would have been good and acceptable if the bill goes through a standing committee.

Prasad says the Assessors system has worked well for Fiji and need not be removed.

SODELPA MP Tanya Waqanika claims the DPP has said in 2017 the removal of assessors would never be done saying to date he has not made another comment.

Most MP’s voted in favour of the bill.

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