14 January 2010

English jury delusions (ibid)

There has been another outbreak of familiar English jury delusions, as four men in England begin their trial on indictment listing various charges including firearms possession with a view to carrying out an armed robbery, conspiring to carry out the robbery and doing so at a cash depot at Heathrow Airport in 2004 to the tune of £1.75 million. John Twomey, Peter Blake, Barry Hibberd and Glen Cameron will now be tried by judge alone under the provisions of the Criminal Justice Act of 2003. Per the BBC,

“There have already been three jury trials arising from the robbery, the last of which collapsed in 2008 because of what the judge referred to as ‘a serious attempt at jury tampering’”.

Cue outrage of one sort or the other. Some of the commentary is more nuanced, while other folk seem to suggest that jury trial is (or ought to be) a fundamental right and the 2003 changes represented a wholesale exercise in tyranny. Echoes here of ‘due process’ type discourses, emanating from the constitutional jurisprudence of the U.S. Supreme Court (in particular, Duncan v. Louisiana, in 1968). While I don’t agree with this broad proposition, assume that it is cogent. As I pointed out when the decision to undertake the robbery trial by judge alone was taken in the middle of last year, the reporting and image of criminal justice presented has a deeply distorted quantitative emphasis. Making juries the central image of trials simply isn't justified - not in Sassenach courts, certainly not in Scotland, where rights in this respect are even more limited than in England. While it’s a bit cheeky so simply ‘ibid’ a new post, all of my remarks in June remain cogent in January. Those of you interested in a bit more detail and argument can read it here.

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