The Magistrate's Blog (2005-2012)

This blog has migrated to www.magistratesblog.blogspot.co.uk This blog is anonymous, and Bystander's views are his and his alone. Where his views differ from the letter of the law, he will enforce the letter of the law because that is what he has sworn to do. If you think that you can identify a particular case from one of the posts you are wrong. Enough facts are changed to preserve the truth of the tale but to disguise its exact source.

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Location: Near London, United Kingdom

The blog is written by a retired JP, with over 30 years' experience on the Bench.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Fine Line

The decision to hold a major trial without a jury raises great questions of principle and of justice. Jury trial, for all its occasional frailties, remains at the core of our justice system and is a powerful protection for the citizen. It is an awesome decision to do away with it, even in exceptional cases. This is an exceptional case. There is, we are told, evidence of persistent attempts to interfere with the jury (and three out of twelve would be enough). My preferred option would be to use whatever resources we have to in order to protect and reassure the jury, but we have to be realistic about the practicalities of this. I am pretty certain that I would not be personally intimidated but if there were a threat to one of my family, how would I react to that?
Jury trial should be sacrosanct - but if intimidation succeeds in allowing violent professional criminals to escape justice, then that is an outrage. So we have to strike a balance. For myself, I am finally persuaded by the fact that Lord Judge approves the idea. He is a man whom I have met briefly and heard speak on a number of occasions. He is a thoughtful man with a powerful intellect and cast-iron integrity. In the last analysis, if it's good enough for him, it's good enough for me.