Saturday, 20 June 2009

Criminal Trial Without Jury

Banksy's justice statue sketch read more about it here

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 introduced powers to hold trials in the absence of a jury when- there is a danger of jury tampering taking place and additional measures to prevent it would not have fully succeed. In a historic judgement the court of appeal ruled that, the criminal case of the Heathrow robbery will become the first time in 400 years that a criminal trial will not be judged by peers. It feels me with unease.

Trial by jury is not prefect and justice in some cases is dependent on the peers sitting. It has throughout our history been a knife that cut's both ways. Yet the same principle applies to judges. What strengthens the reasons for juries is that those 12 people come from a range of life experiences and have to reach a common consensus. A fair judgement is not just more likely for the accused, but also it places society at the heart of the justice system.

If the law had been that the defendant could wave there right to a jury, it wouldn't be such an uneasy thought. As I do think there are cases were juries would be automatically bias. For example cases involving children. Where the problem lies with this is that criminal justice and civil liberties legislation over recent years, has eroded trust and replaced it with suspicion. The state has tilted the scales of justice.

The right to be judged by 12 of your peers is at the very heart of British law and liberty. It feels me with foreboding that now the criminal court has used this law, they may have opened Pandora's box.

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