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Juror shortage postpones trial

Wednesday 14 September 2022 | Written by Matthew Littlewood | Published in Court, National

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Juror shortage postpones trial
Cook Islands High Court. Photo: Sian Solomon/21110511

The trial of Phillip Walter Montgomery Strickland who is facing cannabis related charges has been adjourned to Friday due to the lack of a full jury.

The jury trial, which is presided over by Justice Patrick Keane at the High Court in Avarua, had already lost a day’s worth of proceedings due to filling only 10 of the 12 positions on Monday, and on Tuesday, it again failed to fill all the positions, adding only one extra member.

Justice Keane thanked the jury members already selected for their patience, but said without all 12 positions filled, the trial was unable to go ahead.

He said many of those called up for jury service were unfortunately not on the island, which meant the available pool of jurors was significantly less than had been hoped.

Justice Keane discharged all 10 members of the jury, and adjourned the matter to Friday, where a new jury will be selected.

Ministry of Justice Secretary Tamatoa Jonassen said “this sort of thing rarely happens”.

“The Court must empanel 12 people to form a Jury and normally around 80 people are summoned to form a pool of people that the Jury can be selected from,” Jonassen said.

“In this instance it was recognised that a large number of those that were issued a summon were found to either be travelling overseas, were exempted from Jury service, or had a conflict of interest with the defendant or witnesses.”

Jonassen said as a result, the Court had to defer the start of the Jury trial until a Jury can be formed.

“A new set of Jury summons has been issued and a date set for Jury empanelment,” he said.

“Other Court matters are being referred to the Honourable Judge during this time until the Jury trial can commence.” 

Strickland has pleaded not guilty to charges of offering to supply cannabis and conspiring to sell cannabis.