Year 3, week 39: a sad day

“It is a sad day,” said OldRuin, who seemed to be uncharacteristically agitated this evening.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Have you read the news? The Times has reported that the Court of Appeal has decided that suspected jury tampering is enough to replace trial by jury with trial by judge.”
“Conviction by judge, more like,” said OldSmoothie who was hovering nearby.
“Well, quite,” said OldRuin.
“That doesn’t sound good,” I said.
"Not exactly the best message to be sending to future juries and witnesses," added OldSmoothie. "We'll try and protect you and all but hey, only if it doesn't cost too much."
“Mark my words, BabyB," said OldRuin. "Watering down the right to trial by jury is the single biggest erosion of civil liberties in the whole dark history of this so-called new Labour regime.”
“Oh.”
"Call me old-fashioned," said OldSmoothie, "but I always figured that if there was an abuse of process such as jury tampering you would get rid of the abuse not the process."
“Tyranny doesn’t usually appear through anything as obvious as a coup, BabyB," added OldRuin. "It creeps up when you’re least expecting it. Plays on your weaknesses and slowly eats away at your rights in the name of security or more often fear.” He looked sad as he paused, as if he was trying to articulate so many different strands of thought. “I remember once chatting to Lord Denning at some drinks party or other when I was much younger. Out of the blue he suddenly said to me: ‘You know, the most important right for any Englishman under the law is that of being tried by a cross-section of one’s peers. Goes back to Saxon times you know and it is something we must cherish above all else.’ At the time I couldn’t understand why he seemed to be so concerned that it might in any way be under threat.” OldRuin then bowed his head and started to leave the room before saying in almost a whisper: “I have understood too late.” He paused and left with: “A sad day, indeed.”

For an interview on this topic by Charon QC with BabyBarista's author, click He paused and left with: “A sad day, indeed.”

For an interview on this topic by Charon QC with BabyBarista's author, click here.

June 18, 2009 · Tim Kevan · 7 Comments
Posted in: Uncategorized

7 Responses

  1. Academic Barrister - June 19, 2009

    It will go the same way as jury trial in the civil courts. After a while it will become apparent that the quality of justice in judge trials is just as good as in jury trials, indeed probably better. Also, trials will be conducted more efficiently and speedily, there will be less fuss over admissibility of evidence and the decision-making process is likely to be a lot more transparent, especially if reasoned decisions are given.
    Have you ever met a civil lawyer who wanted to go back to jury trial in civil cases? Ever wondered why civil lawyers are not clamouring for the return of jusries? Answer: because we know it would be a terrible idea.
    Lord Denning, as so often, was talking sanctimonious twaddle.

  2. Paul Harding - June 19, 2009

    To Academic Barrister: no doubt you are right to suggest that many lawyers would prefer not to have the inconvenience of a jury. But I doubt very much if you were wrongly accused of something yourself you would want to come before a cynical judge who has heard and seen it all before. The compromise was made with civil trials because they are about money not liberty. Just as the burdens of proof are so different, the two should not be comparable.

  3. Charon QC - June 19, 2009

    I suspect academic barrister is right in the context of civil matters – few lawyers would want juries in civil cases – but I do feel that juries are an important part of the criminal justice system.
    I do not practice law but friends who do are appalled at the prospect of judge alone trials.
    Perhaps they, too, are talking a load of sanctimonious twaddle?

  4. Abigail - June 19, 2009

    I agree with you, but think you need two blogs. Go on, give us a blog which is not all Screwtapish cynicism. I would love to hear Tim’s opinions on the workings of and changes to the legal system.

  5. sarah penny - June 19, 2009

    As the Times article today confirms, the evidence from Northern Ireland where these have taken place for some time, is that it is no more likely to result in a conviction or acquittal than a jury trial, and as such neither prosecution nor defence should be unduly concerned.

  6. Charles Darley - June 20, 2009

    I am concerned. It is so much easier to arrange a stitch up without a jury.

  7. fledarmus - November 7, 2009

    If you have fair judges whose only desire is to see justice done, hard-working honest prosecutors and police who are concerned about making sure the right person is convicted rather than getting somebody in jail quickly and meeting their quotas, and defense lawyers determined to ensure their client’s rights within the limits of the law, who needs juries?
    If ever you don’t, who could possibly want anything else?