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Should more trials be held without juries?

09:42 UK time, Thursday, 6 May 2010

Two more crown court trials without a jury may be held, just over a month after the first juryless trial for centuries, the BBC has learned. What's your reaction?

Jury-less criminal trials have caused controversy in the legal profession. The Criminal Justice Act 2003, which made them possible, was introduced amid concerns over jury tampering. However, the Crown Prosecution Service said it is strongly in favour of jury trials unless there are "exceptional circumstances".

The applications were lodged after a trial in March, when four men were convicted of armed robbery by a judge, because three previous trials had collapsed, and the Court of Appeal ruled there was a serious danger a jury could be influenced.

Has the complexity of cases undermined the impartiality and fairness of the jury system? In complex cases, are judge-alone trials a better way of achieving justice?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    If we deem the general public too stupid to decide whether a person is guilty or not guilty, why do we let the general public vote at elections?

  • Comment number 2.

    I think this can only be acceptable in very extreme cases where a Jury simply cannot work, as in this case. Better to have a case with no jury than no trial at all if there is a good chance the accused is/are guilty. But this certainly should not become standard practice and a jury should always be used if at all possible.

  • Comment number 3.

    I fear that it might be the first step on a road that leads to "I am the Law" - ZAP.

  • Comment number 4.

    I can see the internal argument for jury-less trials in certain complex cases. However this infers that the public is an ass and simply opens the floodgates for more 'big brother' control and increasingly obscene fees for lawyers.
    All this can only lead to one of two conclusions.........either an Orwellian, Robocop type culture or revolution.

  • Comment number 5.

    Why not use this more often when the accused is so blatantly guilty that to hold a jury trial would onlt be a waste of time and money?

  • Comment number 6.

    Whatever way you look at it, the British judicial system is flawed.

  • Comment number 7.

    Should more trials be held without juries?

    What a brilliant idea, better yet lets remove all civic responsibilities from the public, and leave the establishment to to run everything for our benefit with no oversight.

    It seems to be what that part of the British public that is addicted to the nanny state wants.

    Want to know which part that is?

    Well, they were most recently seen whining about the lack of government assistance or hand-outs after being stranded by a volcano...

  • Comment number 8.

    NO anyone convicted of anything without a jury is in my mind falsely imprisoned. The jury is the basis for us calling the system fair without a jury by default a trail is unfair.

    I always believed a trial by jury to be one of the most sacred things in British culture, the fact it was swept away with no fuss sickens me and makes me feel that our leaders do not have the same values morals or aims as I do.

    It was claimed that terrorism wouldn't change our way of life but it very quickly changed a cornerstone of our nation and with it we lost the 'war on terror' instantly.

    it should be repealed immediately as an affront to the moral of the nation.

  • Comment number 9.

    It HAS to be an option - where a jury might be at extreme risk or where national security is at risk.

    However, it is not without risk - there neads to be extreme scrutiny, it needs to be approved by the widest authority (voted on in Parliament?) and the judges need to be independent.

  • Comment number 10.

    This is absurd. Why should there even be 'special cases'? If the defendant is so well known for previous crimes etc. why is it wrong to take this into account? If a serial killer has been convicted for killing a hundred people, is it wrong to take that into account if they're being tried for one more? Are the courts saying juries are incapable of making fair decisions in cases like these? It smacks of arrogance.

  • Comment number 11.

    C'mon we're nearly at Back To The Future 2!!! - "The justice system works quickly now in the Future now that they've abolished all Lawyers" ;-)

    Seriously, agree that once the genie is out of the bottle things tend to snowball but let's be clear:- jury tampering and rigging is very real. If the powers are faced with this directly, then I'd rather go this road and them try alternatives such as this then dig their heads in the sand. It has nothing to do with deeming the general public as too stupid to decide ones guilt, and if thouroughly assessed independently on a case by case basis then I'm all for it.

  • Comment number 12.

    "First juryless trial for centuries"? Funny, I thought that these had been happening in the UK regularly over recent decades - in Northern Ireland (along with internment without trial, convictions on the say-so of paid informers, etc.)

  • Comment number 13.

    Most people are ignorant of laws and rules and act emotionally and is easily influenced by severity of the crime or possible the punishment. In 99% of the cases it would have made no difference but justice itself should be infallible. Leave judging to the professionals but keep a finger on the pulse.

  • Comment number 14.

    No. Jury trial is a vital guarantee of individual liberty. The state's role should be to do more to prevent jury tampering and intimidation. It can protect the royal family and politicians , so it should be able to protect jurors.

  • Comment number 15.

    There is no case for juryless trials.

    There is a case for having competent people on juries. And jury members must be given proper protection where needed.

  • Comment number 16.

    Message 5: Why not use this more often when the accused is so blatantly guilty that to hold a jury trial would onlt be a waste of time and money?

    Message 9: or where national security is at risk.

    Two good reasons precisely why we must not limit trial by jury. Dangerous thinking indeed.

    What should be done away with is the confrontational way we run trials with a 'prosecutor' and a 'defence'. A trial should be a inquiry to uncover the truth, the the jury actively involved. The present system is totally confusing, does not arrive at all of the truth, and frequently punishes the wrong people. This is my firm conclusion after jury service twice, and sitting on six juries

  • Comment number 17.

    well we all new it was just going to be the tip of the iceberg. Lets hope that by the end of today we have a government with some semblance of respect for the rights we have spent hundreds of years fighting for. Is it so hard to find 12 people who will not be intimidated? What next, too hard to find 40 million who can vote correctly? The day WILL come when the streets of the UK are like the streets of Athens if the political class don't start realising that they work for us, we lend them the power, not give it. This is not some banana republic.

  • Comment number 18.

    Yes and No! Depends entirely on the type and the complexities of the case. It is an option to be retained should we need to use it and those better qualified in law should decide each case on its merits.

  • Comment number 19.

    Why no jury? So they [so-called government] can do as they please to innocent individuals behind an iron curtain.

    The justice system in the UK was working fine up until the deliberate instruction to judges/lawyers NOT to follow the law and to obstruct justice.

    Just another example of how the EUssr dictatorship has infiltrated all levels of society.


  • Comment number 20.

    This is the thin edge of the wedge. Trial by your peers is a basic human right which we have practised in Britain for hundreds of years. It should not be taken away. Who will decide who has a jury trial and who cannot?

    We are becoming a much less democratic country already, we don't need more of our rights removed.

  • Comment number 21.

    Hmmm... I thought people had a constututional right to be tried by their peers ?
    Mind don't we need a written constitution first for that ?
    This is just another right which this government have systematically removed.
    Whose to say the judges are more qualified than others in respect of certain issues which might arise, than the jury is ? After all the Judges are only qualified in legal matters not in other areas of expertise.
    Indeed, after reading the comments some of them come out with now and then, it makes me wonder how suitable they are to act as judge AND jury at all, and if they've ANY knowledge whatsoever of the lives and experiences of "ordinary" people, which in most cases is what the jurors are.

  • Comment number 22.

    for some minor cases or where corruption of juror's may happen i believe this quite acceptable? but really a major overhaul of the judical system could do with a major overhaul? reminds me of the old joke when a thief was found not giulty of stealing a watch? and he said"what do o do with the watch governor he he ??

  • Comment number 23.

    Its not something I'd want to become the norm but there seem to be three areas where it could be justified.
    First, if there's a likelihood of jurors or their families being threatened with personal violence, or some other form of criminal activity, or terrorism.
    Secondly, where there is a likelihood of jurors being bribed.
    Thirdly, in cases where conviction is likely to turn on the understanding, or even interpretation, of highly specialised evidence. Financial crime is the most likely, and there should be special training for judges trying such cases. It's no good saying that by using judges and not juries the authorities are making out that the public is stupid. Trials of this kind are sometimes difficult enough for even the lawyers involved. What is stupid is to expect that anybody can start understanding the evidence from day 1 and ultimately make judgements of guilt in a specialist subject they've never before come across.

  • Comment number 24.

    The Britsh people are not stupid, this is not america yet where if your a celebrity or rich you can get away with murder or anything else. 12 people should be able to judge if someone is guilty or not whoever they are and it should stay that way

  • Comment number 25.

    It is sad if the power of organised crime is now so great that jury tampering makes jury trial impossible is some cases. But, can we be sure that judges cannot be threatened or blackmailed or, perhaps more likely, got at by the authorities?

    The complexity of a case should not be a reason for having a jury less trial. If the technicalities of a case are too much for a jury, then perhaps they are also too much for a judge.

    The answer is to have really competent expert witnesses to give impartial advice.

    It should not be assumed, for example, that a medical expert is competent to give statistical advice. Very often the important questions concern probabilities. The relevant raw data should always be assessed by an expert in probability theory. Courts should not rely on technical experts to deduce probabilities from the own data.

    It would be helpful also if judges had some training in the theory of probability.

  • Comment number 26.

    Why don't we go the whole hog and start political show trials as well, our rights have been eroded over the last 13 years to ensure that the political elite are not bothered by the plebe electorate. We have seen the police attacking demonstrators, laws brought in to remove on e thorn from Parliament Square that then did not aply as they were retrospective.
    If there are cases of Jury Tampering then go after the tamperers and do them with perversion and any other law we can find from littering to murder and really throw the book at them but don't give them bail. It then sends a message.

  • Comment number 27.

    At 10:09am on 06 May 2010, pzero wrote:
    Why not use this more often when the accused is so blatantly guilty that to hold a jury trial would onlt be a waste of time and money?
    ===========
    For the same reason there is no death penalty, the judicial system is not 100%

    How often do we hear "evidence that wasn't available at the time"

    Look back at the past - The Birmingam 6 were blatently guilty in 75', then in 91, not so much.

  • Comment number 28.

    Another stupid law from this Labour government together with the creation of the supreme court. It will be interesting to see if these laws are repealed.....if Labour lose the election of course

  • Comment number 29.

    17. At 10:48am on 06 May 2010, not happy wrote:

    "Is it so hard to find 12 people who will not be intimidated?"

    ---------------------------------------------------------------------

    Have you ever and/or your family been threatened with violence or death should you not reach a desired verdict?

    For the people screaming 'this is the death of justice' and you know usual rehearsed choir are two steps away from breaking into the song and dance of 'ITS NINE-TEEEEEEN EIGHTTTTTY FOOOOOOOUR', just take a deep breath.

    Our system is flawed but try to put cynicism aside for once - their are as many good people in the justice system as their are bad, and they're doing the best they can. If the removal of jury's so offends, lets club together and propose different methods to get round the problems that have prompted these actions.

  • Comment number 30.

    All crimes should be trial by jury, and all civil cases should be trial by jury too.
    The problem is the jury needs to be selected more carefully to include the right mix of people that will grasp the evidence.

  • Comment number 31.

    I am appalled at the thought.

    Trial by jury is a basic right, a measure of genuine independence that serves both innocent and guilty, protection against obscure argument that the accused cannot understand and hence cannot defend himself. Not to mention any abuse of power that the state might indulge in.

    If lawyers feel that they cannot explain a case adequately so that non-specialists in any area involved can understand, we need to ask if the lawyers themselves understand what they are talking about. They charge enough to argue the case, they have no excuse for not making it clear.

    As for jury-tampering, isn't that illegal? So let the law deal with any attempts, it is no reason to dispense with a jury.

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    Firstly, the trial you refer to in the header to this thread was not a "complex issue" as you suggest. It was a simple issue of threats to members of the jury. It could have been overcome by keeping the jury away from the court and watching by CCTV to preserve their anonymity.

    If there are complex cases - such as some fraud cases - then pick experts for the jury - accountants, lawyers etc. - if it is felt others would not be able to understand the evidence (but don't forget the Judge is supposed to provide a summing up statement for the jury).

    If members of the public are not considered to be able to understand "complex" cases what makes the judge more able? How do we decide if the judge is able to deal with complex cases? From some of the decisions I have seen come from our courts I doubt that some of them are any more able than the average member of the public.

    It's a very slippery slope, who is to decide who has trial by jury and who does not? Our Government? Who ever that is I for one would not want that, how long before trial without jury for disagreeing with government policy?

  • Comment number 34.

    No trials should be juryless. I don't recall any political party putting forward a policy to get rid of juries in the past 13 years.Thats the sort of comtempt all politicians hold the public in. Not satisfied with criminalising anyone and everyone with 3000 plus new laws its now the up to money grabbing lawyers and out of date judges to say whether or not your guilty or innocent.I always thought this country was a democracy-I was obviously wrong.

  • Comment number 35.

    Lack of juries isn't necessarily a problem - pick twelve random people and do you seriously expect them all to be capable of coming to a rational decision?

  • Comment number 36.

    #10. No Rufus... Just no!

    Each case has to be taken on it's own merits. In your expample what if the person who is on trial, who has killed before, is found guilty due to jury prejudice on his past convictions and not on the evidence before them. This time they might actually be innocent!

  • Comment number 37.

    No, there should be no more trials without juries. I'm with Richard #8, on this one. Juries were established by his namesake Richard III, to ensure fair trials; even earlier, groups of locals - usually men - were assembled at scenes of crime to establish events - in effect to hold a trial, in the style of piscator's comment at #16. Do you seriously think life was any simpler in his day?

    (It was his successor, Henry VII, who set up the infamous and shameful Star Chamber - eventually done away with for reasons that would resonate with those of us opposed to this current attempt to destroy our rights.)

    Now we have detention without charge, an attempt to extend detention periods to 42 days without charge (thank God that was defeated! - but vigilance is essential), and a trial without jury.

    I wouldn't trust New Labour with such a system; I wouldn't trust the Conservatives either; and if ever (God forbid) the BNP or some other such extremist party eventually came to power, imagine what they could do with it! The fact is, such a setup is unsafe in anybody's hands - not only because of how they might normally use it, but because of what they might be tempted to do with all that power.

    And who will decide what are 'exceptional circumstances', and on what grounds? Further, the fact that someone has committed other crimes, doesn't make it a foregone conclusion that he or she has committed the one at issue; and if they are convicted 'on the nod', so to speak, and are actually innocent of the crime at issue, then the real perpetrator is free to commit further crimes. (I can never understand why some supposedly intelligent police officers - in the style of the infamous West Midlands Serious Crime Squad of old - can't grasp that simple fact.)

    There must be no more trials without jury: let us insist upon the repeal of this iniquitous legislation at once. Protect the juries, yes! Lose another freedom, another right enshrined in English (now British) law for centuries, NO!

  • Comment number 38.

    We all know that the jury system sometimes gets it wrong but to replace it with non-jury trials is a step in the wrong direction. Its hard to judge what could replace 12 men good and true and for the judge alone to end up being both judge and jury could backfire spectacularly.
    I hate the thought of another layer of beaurocracy but maybe a board of full time jurists could be used in cases where intimidation is the problem.

  • Comment number 39.

    the law is an ass and trails without jurys are right on the whole

  • Comment number 40.

    This is not about jury's ability to understand the proceedings.It's about ensuring a trial can proceed.And without intimidation of the jury as well as protection for the prospective jury.
    A jury is essential in most cases,with very few exceptions,for a number of reasons, including:-
    To retain our constitutional right to be tried by a jury of our peers (not the Hse of Lords type)& not have our fortunes determined solely by either the Executive or the Judiciary
    To add an element of wisdom to strictly legal arguments
    To provide a more inquisitorial element to our outdated adversarial system of trial which sometimes results in miscarriages of justice.
    It would be,in my view, a less desirable situation for a trial not to proceed because of potential jury tampering than to adapt our rules for exceptional circumstances.

    In trials where jury tampering is a threat, why not empanel juries in secret & allow them to observe proceedings whilst hidden from the public. This would not guarantee freedom from interference but would perhaps be a compromise acceptable to those worried about erosion of civil liberties.

    I've served on several juries including a lengthy & complex fraud case lasting over 6 weeks.My recollection is that most became quickly disinterested after a couple of days of detailed forensic evidence & so it's difficult to see a jury contributing much to such cases, relying almost entirely upon the judges summing up ( in this case excellently) except, retaining our historic right to trial by jury which must not be given up lightly.

  • Comment number 41.

    In today's technological age, there's no reason that a Jury needs to be actually at the court at all. All they need to do is see and hear the details of the case. They can do that remotely; hence, there's no need for their identities to ever be known except by the authorities.

    There would be no way, then, for those on trial to compromise the jury; unless, of course, they were also able to compromise the authorities themselves - the police, the judge, court officials, etc.

    And if it's possible for these people to be compromised... we definitely don't want them, and them alone, in charge of deciding whether somebody is innocent or guilty.

    Keep Trial By Jury - the primary defense mechanism we have against abuse of the judicial process by the state.

    For cases where there is a fair chance of intimidation or corruption, keep the jury behind closed doors and maintain the secrecy of their identities. Use video-conferencing, telecommunications, etc., to enable them to take the same part in the proceedings as they would if they were actually there.

  • Comment number 42.

    No trial should happen without a Jury its why we had a revolution and two world wars once again the Nu Labour control freaks are destroying our hard fought for rights.

    Wheres Oliver Cromwell when you need him?

  • Comment number 43.

    This is just going to create more problems, because someone convicted in a jury-less trial can afterwards claim that his conviction is "unsafe" and demand a retrial, making more work for lawyers and standing the whole system on its head. If he is denied this right then he or his lawyers can complain to the European Court of Human Rights which will look into the British legal system and may decide it is not fair or sound. The whole jury-less system is a minefield.

  • Comment number 44.

    If juries can be got at and intimidated or bribed, then this only proves that the system of protection is a failure and not fit for purpose.

    In such high profile cases just restrict or deny public access to sit in courtrooms during trials, including the media. They could easily have a room with just sound and no visibility of jurors, so that what is said is still clearly open to all.

    Using the excuse of EU civil and human rights laws adding complications etc is just ridiculous because the EU laws state that they should NOT be used or interpreted for anything else other than that which the laws were specifically intended for. Hence the problem of UK police and Crown Prosecution in attempting to interpret EU laws and rights is just nonsensical because they are as clear as daylight.

  • Comment number 45.

    I think there should be alot more trial without juries. I also think that juries should be made up of people who want to do it not being forced to be on a jury.

  • Comment number 46.

    Should we have trials without juries? Shame on you bbc you are nothing more than a slick propaganda machine for the states plans! Who would want this? You support a world system [britain america] that has for years said that war is peace and we want to help the world by war and killing and destruction.History will revile you in the end you are nazis and worse!

  • Comment number 47.

    Yes we should have more trials without juries. Too many cases are open and shut, and all the prolonged trial with juries, etc does is to waste time and money.

  • Comment number 48.

    I must agree with comment number one, I due firmly believe that there are many people in the Uk who should have the right to either a vote or a passport, does that sound extreme? Sorry.

  • Comment number 49.

    No its not right, whatsoever

    i do believe there is a thing called a camera,
    and now keep up with me as this is some breaking research into this field,

    you have the jury in a completely different building to the court, right still with me?

    then you put said camera in the courtroom, now this magical device records the souls of people and shows what they do and say so they can watch from a different location, i do believe i have just solved the problem,

    why hasn't this been done? they do it for children, why not dangerous criminals with connections, im sure they wont have x ray glasses.

  • Comment number 50.

    It's one more step down the road to Establishment fascism.

    But as that's what the Establishment and Mr Murdoch want, it'll happen, won't it??

  • Comment number 51.

    trial by jury should never be replaced by a kangaroo court of a prosecutor judge and defence alone, the Jury proivide a check and balance a jury can see the grey area if one exists the judge will take advice from the crown prosecution service as always. Without these checks and balances you have a legal system that is non transparent and unfair.
    We have a right to trial by jury. anyone considering removing this is attempting to change our constitution that is the envy of the world and most legal systems around to globe are a copy of ours for a very good reason. Originaly it was down to colonialism but as soveriegnity has been returned to the nations in question the legal systems have remained intact and functioning as close to fair as the system can be.

    I also think that as we have a constant stream of "vote em off" shows that the real need for politicians is growing increasingly in doubt, It aparently costs £150,000 a year to run a constituency office and another in london and new computer equipment needs to be purchased every single year whilst disgussing judges and trials perhaps we should be putting more politicians in the dock without a jury if they appreciate that system first then cool lets roll it out.

  • Comment number 52.

    Frenske says that normal people do not understand the law and should be left to the pofessionals.I disagree.The Judge will explain the law as it stands and then the jury have to decide whether or not the accused has broken the law.If any jury member is not sure about the law or wants more explanation the jury foreman can ask the Judge to explain it more fully.

  • Comment number 53.

    There seem to be a lot of comments suggesting that no jury trials are because the public is an ass. Is in not because of the risk of jury tampering?? Rather than govt lack of trust in the public?

  • Comment number 54.

    Juryless trials must only be used in the case of possible jury tampering, certain national security issues, but it must be held with 3 judges not just one judge for fairness. In the UK being tried by our peers (jury) must always be the first option.

    One thing I would like to see changed is juries being able to RECOMMEND a minimum sentence. I find that too many judges are too lenient on those found guilty of serious crimes.

    If juries cannot recommend a minimum sentence then the sentence should be given by a panel of three judges, on very serious crimes, like murder, national security, child abuse armed robbery, drug dealing and smuggling crimes.

  • Comment number 55.

    47. At 11:50am on 06 May 2010, John Anderson wrote:

    Yes we should have more trials without juries. Too many cases are open and shut, and all the prolonged trial with juries, etc does is to waste time and money.

    -----------

    if everyone was as ignorant as you we would all be chipped with a tracking device in a arm and cars, and just for the sake of saving money, pffttt

  • Comment number 56.

    "5. At 10:09am on 06 May 2010, pzero wrote:
    Why not use this more often when the accused is so blatantly guilty that to hold a jury trial would onlt be a waste of time and money?"

    And who would decide this 'blatant' guilt? You? The CPS? The police?

  • Comment number 57.

    I did jury service in April 2007 for two weeks and sat in on 3 trials.

    The first was a sexual assault on a child, it was hard work (the child wasn't physically harmed) but after a week we returned a guilty verdict and thought we had done a worthwhile service.

    The second trial was of a minor player in a drug dealing operation who we found not guilty because of lack of evidence, even though we believed the person was guilty. Another service to the cause of justice we thought.

    The third case was a fiasco. A young unemployed (and to all purposes unemployable) young woman was accused of stealing less than £15 from the charity she helped out in. My fellow jurers and I could not believe that something as trivial should end up as a two day court trial costing £10,000 per day. I was convinced that this was a deliberate ploy by the accused who appeared to be normal & sensible, with a quiet and winsome demeanour. Despite overwhelming evidence (to me and a couple of others on the jury) the majority gave her the benefit of the doubt.

    We gave up in the end and found her not guilty, mainly because the consequences where trivial.

    This case is a perfect example of the need for restrictions that should be in place to stop abuse of the jury system.

  • Comment number 58.

    No.

  • Comment number 59.

    There is no question that some cases are too complex for an ordinary jury.
    Therefore, these cases need well qualified people to become jurors.
    A panel of judges would be far better than a group of randomly chosen jurors in my opinion.
    Some cases require the introduction of a random jury because it involves judgement based on prevailing social values. It is these cases which are better served by a random jury.

  • Comment number 60.

    "At 09:57am on 06 May 2010, Confuciousfred wrote:
    If we deem the general public too stupid to decide whether a person is guilty or not guilty, why do we let the general public vote at elections?"

    Dear God, man, don't tempt the politicians like that.


    Personally I don't have a problem with jury replacement, but I do object to jury abolishment. In the higher courts like the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, the jury is not present and instead there are multiple senior judges presiding. Effectively the "jury of your peers" is replaced by a jury of legal experts, and because there is still room for debate that is fine.
    On the other hand, putting the outcome of the trial in the hands of a single judge is only appropriate for the most low-level of cases.

    The letter of "trial by jury" should be breached if it is necessary for justice to take its course. The spirit of that rule should not.

  • Comment number 61.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 62.

    It is debatable how useful juries are. I think they make people generally have a little more faith in the legal system. However they are not infallable and have convicted people who were later found out to be innocent, and also let off people who are guilty.
    I also feel very sorry for jurors who end up on long cases, as it impacts on their lifes, be it their careers or family lifes. It also adds a lot of additional cost to the legal system. Given the country is trying to save money, we should be looking at ways to speed up the legal process. Maybe we should look at the number of jurors we use. Why 12? why not reduce to say 8 or 10. Surely 8 would come up with the same decision as 12, albeit a bit quicker.

  • Comment number 63.

    Why can we not have anonymous juries in cases where a jury would be put at risk by the procedures of the court?

    We already have anonymity for victims of sexual offences, why can we not similarly protect juries?

  • Comment number 64.

    Quote:

    6. At 10:10am on 06 May 2010, Dr Malcolm Alun Williams wrote:
    Whatever way you look at it, the British judicial system is flawed.
    /: End Quote

    There is not a Justice System in the world without Flaws, but the British legal system even with it's flaws is amongst the fairest there is.

    As to the question:

    Trial by Jury should remain as the foremost preferred trial. Trial by Judge only is and always can be open to (possible) abuse.

    If the Judicial System and the Police cannot ensure the safety of the Jury or possible tampering, then the Jury should be screened from the open court area making identification impossible, and thus reducing the possibility of any tampering or threats to Jury members.
    There is no reason for the defendant or any barrister to know who the Jury are. They could be examined in private by the Judge and tested on any connections to the accused. It would also be incumbent on the prosecutor and the Police to investigate each and every Jury member where the requirement is for a "protected Jury"

  • Comment number 65.

    Since October 1999 our law has been European. We do not have British justice anymore. That was took away from us like all other statute and policy by stealth. It is not that we are doing away with jury it is just Europe law is different from our own, but we are still ignorant of the fact due to the sly way it was introduced.

    We are always told that British justice is the mother of justice just like our democracy was the mother of democracy, but that has been taken away from us in the same sneaky way. If justice is carried out without the twelve good people, "Why it's there" we will just have to live with it like everything else European and stealthily forced upon us.

    Britain is now history. There will be no great battle for our great grand children to read about, just a sneaky underhanded tale of treasonous Governments and greed. Though that's if the truth is told, it all depends on whos story the history is written, but isn't that sexist? It's not very PC, surely it should be hisherstory.

    Goodbye Britain!

  • Comment number 66.

    Juries are a major way that trials are not only fair but also seen to be fair. Whilst judges can, and do, make good decisions, a jury is a way of fighting cynicism/political interference because:

    1) 12 persons are a strong enough group for each member to feel confident,
    2) As a jury knows it's not going to be around that long, it doesn't have to take account of political pressure if it is applied,
    3) Looking at a case with fresh eyes means that cynicism and world weariness are less likely to influence the outcome of a case, and
    4) W1th 12 people, prejudices are balanced out so people do get a fair hearing.

    That's not to say the system is perfect but it has helped to prevent injustices (e.g. blocking prosecutions where the evidence is extremely weak[1] or, in some cases, where a person was only on trial because they upset somebody in political class[2]).

    [1] I remember a discussion programme where someone who had served on jury stated that they took one look at the evidence in a speeding case and found that it was laughable in its weakness.
    [2] Somebody I know who's done a Law degree cites the case that established the independence of the jury.

  • Comment number 67.

    I detect a slippery slope here.

  • Comment number 68.

    So rather than "nobble" 12 jurors and a judge, Organised crime now only has to "nobble" the judge. How is this an improvement?

    #5. At 10:09am on 06 May 2010, pzero wrote:
    Why not use this more often when the accused is so blatantly guilty that to hold a jury trial would onlt be a waste of time and money?

    Blatantly guilty as decided by The Sun? Like the Taylor Sisters were guilty?

    #21. At 10:56am on 06 May 2010, Shaun Hollingworth wrote:
    Hmmm... I thought people had a constututional right to be tried by their peers ?
    Mind don't we need a written constitution first for that ?

    You mean like the EU Human Rights Act, you know the one the CBI lobbies the Govt. to opt out from?

    #19. At 10:50am on 06 May 2010, LordP wrote:

    The justice system in the UK was working fine up until the deliberate instruction to judges/lawyers NOT to follow the law and to obstruct justice.

    Just another example of how the EUssr dictatorship has infiltrated all levels of society.

    I'm sure that Ruth Ellis, Derek Bentley, the Guildford Four, the Birmingham 6, Blair Peach, Michelle & Lisa Taylor, J.C. De Menezes and innocent.org.uk would heartily agree with your assessment of the infallibility of the British Justice System and by the way, these amendments are being passed IN SPITE OF EU LAW not because of it. The only reason why our Govt. can pass such draconian laws is because of our "independence" via the "opt out clause". It's also why we pay so much more in duty and taxes (on goods) than the rest of Europe.

    #40 has the best suggestion to the issue of jury tampering.

  • Comment number 69.

    "The justice system is going back in time to save money? Next we will have peers from the house of lords as judges'??? deporting petty criminals for shoplifting from Tesco, to Aussie for life.

  • Comment number 70.

    I think there should be, only because more and more juries are 'got at'. Also I'd like to see defence lawyers held to account if a criminal they get off, is later found guilty.

  • Comment number 71.

    Edited Quote:

    25. At 11:14am on 06 May 2010, stanblogger wrote:

    It would be helpful also if judges had some training in the theory of probability. :/ End Quote

    Probability is not and never should be enough to convict.

    The test is "Beyond Reasonable Doubt" not that he probably did it.

  • Comment number 72.

    No: 5, pzero wrote:
    Why not use this more often when the accused is so blatantly guilty that to hold a jury trial would onlt be a waste of time and money?
    -*-
    If one is "so blatantly guilty" why bother holding a trial, how about marching the "blatantly guilty party" straight to jail and save even more money! Come to think of it, why jail? How about to putting the "blatantly guilty party" to work in a chain gang and thereby save even more money!!

  • Comment number 73.

    I understand the concerns of people regarding trials without jury but if you think about it, trials such as this take place every single day in Magistrates' and Juvenile courts. True, they are for lesser offences such as motoring, minor theft and criminal damage etc but the 'no jury' trial has already been proven to work fairly and effectively.

    The more serious and sophisticated criminals who appear at Crown Court are not only in danger of losing their liberty but, if convicted, will also lose millions of pounds that they have accrued through crime (under the proceeds of crime act). These are deadly serious people with a lot at stake.

    I wonder how many people's fortitude would remain steadfast when threatend by criminals with access to fireams. I think we need to get this into perspective.

  • Comment number 74.

    "Two more crown court trials without a jury may be held, just over a month after the first juryless trial for centuries, the BBC has learned."

    That's the trouble with the country nowadays - always things half-way.

    Instead of having just a few juryless trials, why not go all the way and destroy almost 800 years of judicial evolution and common law since the Magna Carta was instituted?

    Seriously though, if there are problems with the jury's susceptibility to threats and corruption, then jury security and sequestration are the factors that need overhauling - not wholesale jury elimination.

    Otherwise we're heading towards trouble.

  • Comment number 75.

    If the jury is at risk from intimidation, bribes etc, as in some high profile cases then yes, or if the trial is too long complex.
    Lets bring back capital punishment a well as castration for ALL sex ofenders.

  • Comment number 76.

    Well it's possible 12 folk could be nobbled, but call me ye old'e cynic but is it not easier to nobble just 1?

  • Comment number 77.

    Jury trials in this country are already a rarity. The vast majority of cases are heard before Magistrates, and of the cases that do make it to the crown court the majority of the defendants there plead guilty. This means that only 1-2% of Criminal Trials go to Jury....yet our country hasn't fallen to tyranny, despite the fact that in most offences there is no right to Jury trial, the Magistrates or District Judge will here your case.

  • Comment number 78.

    If they're worried about jury tampering, sequester the jury.
    Personally, I'm more worried about democracy.

  • Comment number 79.

    Yes. The general public are morons. If I were on trial I would feel very uncomfortable about 12 randomly picked people deciding my future. Let the judges make the decisions, they get paid enough money, about time they actually did something for it.

  • Comment number 80.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 81.

    No, there should not be any more trials without juries.

  • Comment number 82.

    How can you possibly have a fair trial without a jury of your own peers? That is utterly absurd and a total injustice. Even if the accused's guilt was so beyond doubt that the trial be little more than a formality they should still be given a trial before a jury. Otherwise, you get a nanny state where judges become arbiters who can condemn or acquit people based on little more than what mood they woke up in that morning. They did this out of fear of jury tampering - it's a damn sight easier to tamper with one or two individuals than it is to tamper with twelve!

    What I would say is that jurors should be matched more against the accused - for example, fraud trials ought to be juried by people with some knowledge of the profession or the intricacies of the offence in question - what's the point in getting Jeff the greengrocer to sit trial on a case of embezzlement? Better to have him sit on an everyman offence trial like GBH or such.

  • Comment number 83.

    It sounds good in theory, such as saving time, money, & the risk of jury intimidation.

    However, I wonder how long it is until we see a fiddle involving a judge in a masonic funny handshake kind of way!

  • Comment number 84.

    Looks like a slippery slope. The same sort of ''logic'' is being usd to criticize the possibility of a hung Parliament.

    It is not hung Parliaments that are the problem per se(as there are plenty of examples of good government) but those politicians who seek to work negatively, against the national interests.

    Is it more difficult to ''nobble'' a jury of say, twelve people than say three judges ??

    Go figure...

  • Comment number 85.

    There should be no trials without a jury. Sometimes the ideal is more important than any practical difficulties.

  • Comment number 86.

    Asolutely NO..NO.NO.NO.
    Unfortunately there are that many corrupt people in positioons of power that justice would be skewed if there were less jury trails and .more just judge trails..A jury has nothing to gain by misjustice.wheres bent or corrupt officals do.

  • Comment number 87.

    To answer the question as asked: no, terrible idea.

    Another good reason to kick the "Boomer Buster" out...

  • Comment number 88.

    The norm MUST be trial by jury. The process is far from perfect, but it's the best we've got to ensure a fair trial for the accused.

    In truly exceptional circumstances, trial by judiciary may be the only way to ensure both a fair trial and justice for society. BUT, one judge sitting alone is totally inadequate ... there should be a minimum of 3 judges, and preferably 5.

    Finally, PLEASE can we have no more of "if you're nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear". That has been proved time and time again to be rubbish. There must be hundreds of innocent people who have had their lives completely disrupted by being arrested and held in custody for long periods. How much more devastating for those who have gone through the ordeal of a trial (after many months held on remand?). Just imagine the trauma of being sent to prison for a crime you didn't commit, and there have been dozens of those.

  • Comment number 89.

    I do understand that in this ever more complex world we live in, that their can be a few, especially complex fraud cases that could be beyond the grasp of normal people.... in these cases a jury of experts could be used. There will also be a small number of cases where jury tampering could occur, i would first ask that a trial be started with a jury and when this occurred, then and only then it be transferred to a judge only or preferably 3 judges case....

    My worry is that we have seen the misuse and abuse of laws already, and we are moving away from an innocent until proven guilty scenerio, to one where you have to prove your innocence, this to me is unacceptable..judges are now being hand picked by government, another worrying muddying of the system, especially as many MP's are lawyers, i think we should all be concerned that this is the thin end of the wedge, and once the door is opened, we could lose many many more rights we have grown up with, that have long been the envy of and basis of many legal systems around the globe.


  • Comment number 90.

    May one add that to go with a person having rights, they also have responibilities? A written constitution where the individual's rights are defined, and, quite possibly, taken away as defined by a constitution. An example would be someone convicted of certain grades of felony may have, at the discretion of a judge, as part of his sentence, lose some of his rights, e.g. no passport for a certain time.

  • Comment number 91.

    35. At 11:32am on 06 May 2010, ForceCrag wrote:
    Lack of juries isn't necessarily a problem - pick twelve random people and do you seriously expect them all to be capable of coming to a rational decision?

    So we know not to call you then. A random selectionof citizens is able to form a rational opinion as to the truth based on teh evidence. Trails with preconcieved ideas is what we are heading for, Judges are sometimes devoid of any aspect of life, rarely know what the general opinion is and go the way of there political masters. No person should be tried without a Jury its as simple as that.

  • Comment number 92.

    While a jury of ones peers is still the best option for most cases, there are a few cases where this is not the case. The recent "jury nobbling" risk by a vicious set of defendants is one. An experienced judge,(or panel of judges) is also less likely to be swayed by a glib speech from a defending or prosecuting barrister. There is also a case to be made for specialist juries, whereby, for example, a jury of accountants would be better at assessing the evidence in a complex fraud trial than a jury made up from the general public.

  • Comment number 93.

    Horrific.
    It defies belief that this is the assumed solution when better security methods to protect jury members are required. Children can be protected by one-way screens in court so why not this and other measures.

  • Comment number 94.

    Were I in Court I would expect to be able to:-

    a. face my accuser and
    b. face the people who would decide my guilt or innocence.

    The Jury must see the accused and vice-versa. Body language is important.

    The Jury should be free from pressure and interference and protected as necessary.

  • Comment number 95.

    If you were a juror on a case where some violent lunatic was on trial with numerous of his mates still at liberty, how safe would you be feeling...?

    Fraud trials are beyond even Accountants sometimes.

    There is a a definite case for these trials as long as they remain the exception rather than the rule.

  • Comment number 96.

    Should more trials be held without juries?
    Yes!
    My reaction is this:
    - no more grandstanding by well-paid lawyers,
    - no more misleading the jury far away from the facts,
    - no more dress-up for the client
    - no more rehearsing witnesses for the parts upon the stage
    - no potential for hung juries, jury tampering, intimidation and/or bribery
    - LESS EXPENSE and fool around with petty legal actions.
    Of course this will cause havoc among the legal profession. Rich “alleged” criminals pay good money for a good legal performance.
    Has the complexity of cases undermined the impartiality and fairness of the jury system?
    Yes.
    In complex cases, are judge-alone trials a better way of achieving justice?
    Yes, but there’s always the possibility of a three-panel judge-ship if the case is too complicated.

  • Comment number 97.

    If we start having trial-without-jury for whatever reasons, then it seems to me that it's the start of a slippy slippy. Once there's justification for having a juryless trial, then it's much easier to justify the next one and then the next one etc. This might take years, but eventually, more and more cases would be heard and judged behind closed doors.
    This in itself is open to abuse especially when quote 'in the national interest' is used by the ruling authorities for doing so. However honest and unbiased judges are, external pressures (public, politial, international etc) could lead towards miscarriages of justice.
    Better 'twelve good men, honest and true' take time and resources (in some cases, alot of both) to make a judgement with the least possible external interferences, than let this nation head down that slippy slope towards trial-without-jury.

  • Comment number 98.

    We have had trial without jury for years.
    I have heard "the jury was directed by the judge to come to a verdict", not consider a charge or the case was thrown out by the judge far too many times already. Maybe thats when he has been nobbled. Surely 12 people should decide for themselves what the evidence points to.

  • Comment number 99.

    If this is being introduced to protect jurors from potential intimidation, then why not simply have a system that protects jurors identities, as we already do with vulnerable witnesses, children, rape victims etc? Jurors could be off site, watching the trial by video link, for example. Or a closed intranet? The trial could be in London, while the jury could be anywhere else in the country...

    The jury system is too important to dispense with, and it seems to me that in the 21st century we already have all the technology we need to avoid dispensing with it. Why allow an indispensable freedom to be eroded just for the lack of a little thought into other ways around the problem? Scrapping juries is like demolishing a house just because a window got broken.

  • Comment number 100.

    If cases are too complex for jury trials, maybe our laws or our society are too complex. I think it is wrong for this government to change our system of justice and is another dent in our freedoms, typical of this government, this is another reason why I have voted against them.

 

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