UK Liberty

Still missing the point

Posted in law and order by ukliberty on September 11, 2008

Crispin Black in the Guardian on why we should drop having trials and just let the authorities put people in prison:

With the failure to reach verdicts in two high-profile terror trials

This is misleading, because verdicts were reached in the liquid bomb case – three guilty of conspiracy to murder, one found not guilty.  Verdicts were not reached on the charges relating to plotting to blow up aircraft.

In the second case, linked to the 7 July London bombings, I’m not surprised the jury failed to reach a verdict, going by the evidence in the media  – the suspects visited London seven months beforehand, they used public transport, they visited some tourist attractions, they made telephone calls between each other and the bombers.

(That may be another case where intercept evidence would have been useful.)

in the last two months, jury trial in such cases is being questioned.

Of course it is, because the authorities aren’t getting the results they want, and instead of looking at that great big tree in their own eyes, they are looking at the speck of dust in the jurors’.

This morning, certain senior officials and government ministers probably feel like the admiral at the battle of Jutland who said “there seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today”. We have become used to the fact that on occasion obscure points of human rights law can scupper what look like common sense procedures – deporting [foreign] Islamist extremists for instance.

Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Prohibition of Torture) is hardly an obscure point of law.

But juries are a different matter – they are held to embody the distilled fairness and impartial judgment of all of us. If they are having difficulty reaching verdicts maybe there is something amiss.

And Crispin thinks, “It must be the jury that is amiss!” – let’s not consider that the issue is the prosecution failed to convince the jury beyond reasonable doubt that the suspects intended to bomb aircraft.  The prosecution’s case is where to start looking for answers if we think there is a problem.

Juries are central to English justice. Here it’s 12 good men/women and true who ultimately decide criminal trials – not judges or panels of judges like the dodgy Europeans. We are proud of this. During the troubles in Northern Ireland we were forced to suspend jury trial in the province after a programme of intimidation and murder by terrorists. We had little choice, but the reputation of justice suffered nonetheless and the IRA made great hay in terms of propaganda from the so-called Diplock courts where a judge sat alone (abolished in 2007).

If on occasion the prosecution case is not as strong as initially thought and the jury won’t buy it – all well and good. That is how the system should work. Juries are not meant to be comprised of 12 Jeremy Clarkson think-alikes. The authorities will have to take it on the chin.

But?

But

There you go!

juries repeatedly

Repeatedly?

Crispin has given us two examples of failures to reach verdicts, one of which wasn’t in fact a good example.

not being convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” by what the prosecution (and the intelligence community and a large chunk of the general public) consider to be strong cases is a different matter altogether.

So again, it must be the juries’ fault.

Again, let’s not consider that the prosecution failed to persuade the jury beyond reasonable doubt.  And of course the authorities will be convinced by their own case – that is why the CPS press particular charges, because they think there is a reasonable chance they will succeed.

I’m not entirely sure why Crispin Black thinks “a large chunk of the general public” is competent to deliver a verdict – they will be aware of only a fraction (if any) of the evidence heard by the jury.

When the verdicts came in yesterday in the airline plot trial (which the jury, despite convicting three men for conspiracy to murder were not convinced was about airliners at all)

Quite, it is the politicians and the national press that characterised it as the airline plot – Crispin, just because someone says something, it does not mean that is a fact.

the judge complimented the jury on their efforts in effusive not just polite terms. So he was satisfied that they had done their duty. I am sure he was right.

But nevertheless Crispin is concerned.

But have the authorities given any thought to the sheer complexity and grinding detail that some present-day juries have to absorb?

Yes.

Is there a way of making some of these cases less complicated and time-consuming without loading the dice against the defendants?

Crispin is trying to frame the discussion with the unsubstantiated premise that the cases are complicated (of course they are time-consuming).  Let him establish that and then we can work out if they are too complicated for lesser people to understand.

Finally I wonder if modern juries are not susceptible to a form of silent, subconscious intimidation. After all, when they leave the secure environment of Woolwich crown court some of them might not feel that they are resuming their lives in a well-ordered society. And as we have discovered in recent months, they can’t necessarily be confident that their identities and addresses will remain secret for long.

Mere speculation, with nothing to substantiate it.

Shoddy, shoddy work.

Get a grip and some perspective.

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  1. Lords reject 42 days « UK Liberty said, on October 14, 2008 at 2:01 pm

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