The Lower House of the Antiguan parliament has passed an amendment to the Criminal Proceedings Trial by Judge Alone Act of 2021, preparing the way for the legislation to become a permanent feature of the legal landscape.

Initially introduced in response to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, judge-alone trials sought to alleviate the backlog of indictable cases awaiting trial.

The legislation included a sunset clause, which was extended twice.

The act permits certain criminal trials to proceed without a jury, under specific circumstances.

These circumstances include offences outlined in various acts, including but not limited to the Larceny Act, the Forgery Act, and the Misuse of Drugs Act.

For serious offences like murder, the defendant’s consent is mandatory for a judge-alone trial.

Antigua and Barbuda conducted its inaugural judge-only murder trial last year.

Several countries in the region, such as Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Belize and Trinidad and Tobago, already have similar legislation.