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Quixotic endeavours

Forcing a jury to provide reasons for its decision questions the right, embedded in the Magna Carta, to trial by jury, warns David Rhodes

19 January 2010

“I cannot bring myself to believe that there are any persons other than inmates of a lunatic asylum who would vote in favour of the abolition of trial by jury in serious criminal cases,” said Humphreys J in 1954 (‘Do We Need a Jury?’ [1954] Crim LR 457).

Heedless of Humphreys J’s diagnosis, Parliament has in recent times made several encroachments on the 800-year-old principle of trial by jury. Juries can now be presented with sample counts only and have been divested of the power to find unfitness to plead; their removal in complex fraud trials waits in the wings. Worryingly, in June 2009, the Court of Appeal decided that because of the risk of jury tampering a defendant known as T should, in accordance with section 44 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, become the first defendant in England and Wales to be tried before a Crown Court without a jury: R v T [2009] EWCA Crim 1035.

Yet, a greater threat to what most English men and women would consider ...

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