Court Administration explains judge’s decision to bar public from observing case involving Jolyan Silvera
The decision by a judge to bar the public from observing the murder case involving former parliamentarian Jolyan Silvera, is in an effort to ensure public safety and order, as well as protect witnesses.
This explanation was provided by the Court Administration Division (CAD) in a statement issued today, in response to concerns and public backlash.
Mr. Silvera is charged with the murder of his wife, Melissa.
Police had reclassified the matter from a death by natural cause, to a murder investigation, after the autopsy revealed that bullet fragments were found in Melissa’s body.
When the matter went before the court, the judge barred both the media and relatives, from observing.
The media association of Jamaica and the press association of Jamaica, then demanded an explanation, for the judge’s decision.
Today, the CAD sought to clarify the judge’s authority, to restrict media access to the proceedings, before the circuit court division of the gun court, during Mr. Silvera’s first court appearance.
It said the director of public prosecutions preferred in the circuit court division of the gun court, an indictment against Mr. Silvera charging him with two counts.
Count 1 charges Mr. Silvera with using a firearm to commit a felony, while count 2 charges him with murder.
The CAD pointed out that a firearm offence falls under the gun court, therefore the provisions of the gun court act apply.
The gun court act states that in the interest of public safety or order, no person shall be present at any sitting of the court, except for court officials, police and other security, parties to the case, lawyers, witnesses, persons directly concerned with the case, and persons the court specifically authorizes to be present.
The act further states, that in the interest of public safety, order or morality, the court may direct, that in relation to any witness appearing before the court, the name, address and other particulars of the witness, should be kept confidential, and shall not be published.
It states, that no particulars of the trial, other than the name of the accused, the offence charged, the verdict and sentence, shall be published, without the prior approval of the court.
The CAD indicated that this provision has been the basis of in-camera hearings and trials, in all divisions of the gun court since 1974, and that judges presiding in the gun court, have excluded members of the public from being inside, when offences under the gun court, are being addressed.
It noted that when persons are indicted and placed before the circuit court, there is a default presumption of ready access to the proceedings, by members of the public, including the media.
The CAD said when persons are charged and placed before the gun court, the default position created by law, is that members of the public, including the media, are excluded, unless they come within the exceptions.
It said the judge is required to give effect to the policy reflected in the statute, which is to create an environment in which witnesses could attend and participate in the proceedings, without their identities being made public, or any information being made public that would enable them to be identified.
It added that the judiciary remains committed to upholding the constitution and applying the statutes, passed by the legislature.