Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Right to trial by jury died today

The government has just successfully kicked away another plank of the justice system in this country: the right to trial by jury. In the case of R v John Twomey, Barry Hibberd, Peter Blake and Glen Cameron on charges relating to armed robbery the judge alone will decide their guilt. There will be no jury called.

It’s the first serious criminal trial to be held without a jury in England and Wales for more than 350 years. Right to trial by jury is enshrined in the Magna Carta. (Magistrates courts don't have juries, but they do have three magistrates.)

Last June, Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge made legal history by allowing the trial to be heard by a judge alone as he feared jury tampering using powers under Sections 44 and 46 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 that came into force in July 2007.

The right to trial by jury can now be found in the same dustbin as the right to silence and the presumption of innocence.

Even countries which have no tradition of trial by jury at least have a panel to decide guilt, not just one man working alone.


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