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.





Comments are usually moderated. However, I do not accept any legal responsibility for the content of any comment. If any comment seems submitted just to advertise a website it will not be published.

Monday, 13 February 2017

JURY VETTING IS UNFIT FOR PURPOSE

I suppose commenting on the general topic of juries and the internet is the sort of activity that fills lawyers and judges with trepidation. The mere mention of jury competence in some circles invites the arrival of the Spanish Inquisition.  Two of my posts in 2015 more or less sum up the situation. It seems now that the current watchword by virtue of Il Duce Trump is fake news.  HH Judge Graham Robinson at Grimsby Crown Court warned whoever was listening that they must be aware of fake news and to that end avoid using the internet in jury deliberations.  All this leads back to the situation where owing to the outmoded concept of "peers" every person of age  excluding a few who are insane or members of parliament or both, must serve.  Even some of those  who have had a criminal conviction must serve if ordered.  However periods of imprisonment, a suspended sentence of imprisonment or probation can warrant exclusion. I have never been called to jury service under the current regulations and excluded myself when rules were more elastic decades ago. The fact remains that some jurors with specialist knowledge or higher intellect on the one hand and those with extreme prejudices of one sort or another, low intelligence or poor command of English language on the other are sitting in judgement in life changing situations for many defendants. Their contrary abilities do not in the current jargon offer a zero sum of decision making. The time must surely be coming  when the vetting of jurors is brought up to date to cope with the modern day demands of adjudicating at the very least on the most serious indictable offences.  Currently such vetting as it is, is unfit for purpose. What was suitable in the past is no longer acceptable.


3 comments:

  1. Good piece and the powers that be must get to grips with this issue and that must be sooner rather than later. I have never been called but I am aware of circuit judges who have been selected and it is interesting when you ask them if they chose to show their hands. When the other jurors find out (and they will) then a whole scenario descends in the jury room about who can best guide them through the process but generally the judges baulk at becoming jury foreman. All seems to have been OK though.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have served on a jury prior to becoming a JP. I was frankly horrified at the level of ignorance and bigotry exhibited by some of my fellow jurors. There were others who lost interest in the whole process and took no part in the deliberations. There was one individual who was, in my opinion, intellectually incapable of participation in the process. The fact that someone's liberty was in the hands of these individuals saddened and sickened me. It was that experience that spurred me on to becoming a magistrate on the basis that I could at least be part of something that brought fairness, objectivity and judicial competence.

    Nothwithstanding the above, I still have to wonder what the alternative is.....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Having recently been called for selection at the High Court, I turned up clutching a (genuine) sick note, but in two minds about whether to use it. However, after hearing that it would be a rape case (and a Christmas one at that, ho ho ho), I decided not to waste my time with a sad, sordid story of yeah-but-no-but-yeah that would almost certainly result in an acquittal, and played my Joker.

    The Clerk didn't so much as glance at the envelope from my GP, let alone open or read it, before waving me towards the door. So it occurs that there is an aptitude test involved. Sadly, it's arsey-versey: anyone who's fit to serve should be able to figure out a way to avoid it.

    ReplyDelete