For the first time in British Columbia courtroom history, 14 jurors were sworn in for a lengthy trial in
B.C. Supreme Court on Jan. 17.
The federal Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act, which amends the Criminal Code of Canada, allows for the swearing of up to 14 jurors at the discretion of the judge. Previously, the Criminal Code allowed for only 12.
When 13 or 14 jurors are selected, only 12 participate in deliberations. After the judge’s charge to the jury, a random selection process determines which jurors deliberate.
The additional jurors will help minimize difficulties that occasionally occur in lengthy trials, such as when jurors need to be discharged. This can result in the size of a jury being reduced below 10, the minimum number required by law, leading to a mistrial.
Jury selection for the trial of the navigating officer charged with criminal negligence causing death in the sinking of the Queen of the North began Jan. 9. The trial is being heard in Vancouver Law Courts.
• A 13- or 14-member jury can occur in any Supreme Court location in B.C.
• Under the Criminal Code, a minimum of 10 jurors is required to render a verdict in criminal trials. Usually 12 jurors are selected to ensure the minimum is met.
• Lengthy trials are sometimes referred to as mega-trials. They involve a large amount of complex evidence, numerous charges against multiple accused and many witnesses, and can result in exceptionally long proceedings.
• Passed June 26, 2011, this part of the Fair and Efficient Criminal Trials Act took effect Oct. 24, 2011.