Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.





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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

JURY MEMBERSHIP SHOULD BE LIMITED



The issue of religion when its tenets come into conflict with our legal system were rare indeed before the mass immigration from Pakistan.  Occasionally members of the Plymouth Brethren or similar Christian sects would demand that they be excused from certain civic functions or requirements.  Apart from events across the Irish Sea such matters were of little consequence to the mass of the population such were the low numbers of such congregations.  There were and occasionally are news reports of some difficulties Orthodox Sabbath observant Jews have with regard to Saturday working.  Legislation in the last twenty years has reduced the numbers of such cases to a handful.  But with three million Moslems now settled here many bringing with them attitudes to religion and society not seen here since Victorian times we read increasingly of occasions where these attitudes seem incoherent to western thinking with its more relaxed approach to religious doctrine whether Christian or Jewish in all their variations.  Stories of Moslem supermarket check-out staff refusing to price up pork products might or might not be apocryphal but certainly there is a current situation that rarely reaches a mass audience.  One such was the refusal of a niqab wearing witness to reveal her face in court.  Personally I never had to make a decision in such circumstances but it is not unlikely that across the country ex-colleagues have been confronted with such situations which of course don`t reach the national press owing to the reduced reporting of magistrates` courts` cases. However when a religion orientated collision happens at a crown court there is a much greater likelihood of publicity.  And so it was recently at the Old Bailey.  The end story is one of compliance by the juror in question but my point is that it would seem not unlikely that similarly minded such individuals  have been, are or will be future jurors.  In such circumstances how could such a person contribute to a reasoned logical discussion on a defendant`s guilt or innocence?   With an almost unfettered system for selecting our peers to sit as jurors in judgement including even those who are not British citizens or with little command of English, is there not a very strong argument for this open door policy to be re-considered?

1 comment:

  1. No I completely disagree with you. The law allows religous exemption; the gentleman exercised it, was tested by the judge as is required, was found to not to be capable of exemption and accepted the judge's ruling. All quite proper. I think I would rather have this gentleman on my jury than someone who takes one look at me and decides I'm guilty - and don't say that doesn't pretty much happen!

    On face covering the prevailing thought is changing (rightly in my view) to one of acceptance - even the Lord Chief Justice seems unfazed by the idea.

    Language skills is also a (provocative?) red herring - the jury form specifically points to the possiblibility of exemption for lack of language skills.

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