Monday, 16 January 2012
When a civilised country is colonised by third-worlders, it is gradually transformed into a third-world country itself. We've already seen habeas corpus fall to the third-worlders; now it's the turn of trial by jury.
The right to trial by jury for thousands of offences would be scrapped under plans being considered by ministers, The Times has learnt.

The measure is being examined for inclusion in a White Paper next month aimed at learning the lessons of the riots last year. It would mean up to 70,000 cases a year, most of them for minor theft, being heard by magistrates rather than by a judge and jury in Crown Court. Eighty per cent of theft trials involve values of less than £200.

The saving would be huge, with a hearing before magistrates costing an average of £900 a day compared with £3,000 a day in Crown Court. But more crucially, supporters say it would relieve the workload on the overstretched Crown Court, freeing it to deal more swiftly with murders, rapes and serious assaults.

The idea affects a swath of middle-ranking offences where at present defendants can elect trial either by magistrates or by jury, which as well as theft include assaults, burglary, some driving offences, drugs offences and criminal damage above £5,000. Two thirds choose to go to Crown Court, but most go on to enter guilty pleas on the brink of a trial.

The move is strongly backed by the Magistrates’ Association and by others such as Louise Casey, who advises the Government on dealing with the aftermath of the riots.

But criminal barristers and civil liberties groups are strongly opposed on the ground that it would erode a fundamental principle of the justice system — the right to trial by a person’s peers.

John Fassenfelt, JP, chairman of the Magistrates’ Association, said that it was increasingly hard to justify trial by jury for offences such as the “theft of a bottle of Coca-Cola” when cases are now talking an average of 22 weeks to come to Crown Court trial and up to a year for some of the most serious cases.

“If many of these cases were dealt with by magistrates, who I believe give as fair a hearing as a judge and jury, then the Crown Court could deal with the more serious cases sooner — with more likelihood of justice being done.”

Ms Casey called recently for the right to trial by jury to be ended for minor offences. Cases such as the theft of tea bags and biscuits were clogging up the courts, she said. If even half the 70,000 cases now heard in Crown Court went to magistrates, the saving would be £30 million, she said. “We should not view the right to a jury trial as being so sacrosanct that its exercise should be at the cost of victims of serious crime,” she said. “It is known that waiting for a criminal trial often means that victims put their lives on hold; bereaved families of murder victims cannot grieve until the trial is over.

Defendants should not have the right to choose to be tried by a jury over something such as the theft or a bicycle or stealing from a parking meter.” The idea has been put forward repeatedly in the past two decades, but often foundered because of the so-called “archbishop” case — the person of previous blameless reputation who, it is argued, deserves the right to be tried by his peers.

Civil libertarians and criminal lawyers say that although the value of the stolen article may be small, the impact of a conviction for an individual can be huge in terms of job and reputation.

Max Hill, QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “So-called minor cases may not lead to prison, but can have a major impact upon the individual and prospects of employment, credit and general livelihood.

“Yet again, the Government seeks to cut corners on justice, this time by reducing the citizen’s right to trial by jury. We will all pay the price for this downward spiral towards a bargain- basement criminal justice system.”

Mr Fassenfelt agreed that there would have to be safeguards. “There would have to be some way to ensure that in certain cases, an individual could be tried by judge and jury.” One option is that magistrates would have discretion to send a case to jury trial where someone is before the court for the first time.

A second concern that troubles ministers is that if thousands more cases are devolved to the magistrates’ courts, more defendants will receive custodial sentences because of JPs’ reputedly tougher approach to sentencing. “But this is not borne out by the statistics,” Mr Fassenfelt said.

The right to jury trial dates from the Magna Carta in 1215 and is held to be a fundamental tenet of the justice system. Lord Lane prompted an outcry when he raised removing it from small thefts when Lord Chief Justice in 1982.

Jack Straw tried twice as Home Secretary to introduce a similar change in the law more than a decade ago, but was heavily defeated after strong opposition. David Blunkett tried again when he was Home Secretary to remove juries in complex fraud trials, but the measure was killed off by peers.
Source: The Times (£)


Anonymous said...

Ain't globalism and multiculturalism "grand"?

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