Court Watch

Hawai'i trial attorneys and appellate court attorneys


Monday, November 28, 2005

British Plan to Abolish Juries Blocked, Not Dead

Apparently, 800 years of favorable experience with the jury system has overridden the knee-jerk reaction of England's Lord Chancellor and Attorney General to several embarrassing losses in high-profile fraud cases.

Last week, Court Watch reported England's top legal figure was pushing to outlaw juries in complex fraud cases by arguing that juries were basically too dumb to understand the prosecution's case. Critics of the proposal, from both the Liberal and Conservative parties, have now blocked it in the House of Lords and believe the government merely put on very weak cases or otherwise mishandled the trial.

One biting criticism of the prosecutor's misguided courtroom strategy came from the Guardian commentary we cited last week. The prosecutors apparently attempted to strengthen weak cases by boring the jury into submission through never resting its case. One trial lasted 14 months, and another lasted 21 months. Jurors were actually resigning from the jury duty.

A BBC article quotes prominent lawyers calling for the idea to be abandoned:

But the president of the Law Society, Kevin Martin, called on the government to "drop the proposal entirely".

"Juries are not to blame for lengthy trials. The solution lies in better case management," he said.

Chairman of the Bar Council Guy Mansfield QC said: "People trust juries, and half a million are called to serve on them each year.

"There is no other part of the justice system which enjoys such public confidence.

"Ministers should drop their controversial plans once and for all."


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