Jury still out
Michael Kelly’s contribution to the debate about professional jurors and television in courts (Perspective, 4 October) is useful and highlights the fact that no justice system is perfect.
His thoughts on change are stimulating but one wonders just how much those responsible for guiding our justice system are listening.
It seems at times in Scotland that automatically the status quo is seen as our “friend” while change or “interference” from outside is our “foe”. Actually, the reverse can be true.
Just because the principle of trial by a lay jury of our peers has been in place for 700 years it does not mean that it is the most effective way of ascertaining the truth and achieving justice today. Things have changed and are changing.
We can argue that the secretive nature of the jury process is out of step with a world in which social media makes communication between people a matter of course, a world in which a judge’s admonition not to speak about a case resembles Canute seeking to hold back waves of information, and advice and opinion on a case are available to jurors via the internet and mobile phones.
Can jurors or, for that matter judges and lawyers, really be expected fully to understand the complexities of the ever growing body of scientific or technical expert evidence being presented in our courts?
Why cannot professional jurors be more proactive in the trial process, asking questions and seeking clarification?
In Scotland, in respect of our justice system, we appear to favour first aid over major surgery.
We are reactive, the removal of corroboration and the double jeopardy rule exposing the whole system to rigorous assessment.
I believe that trial by a lay jury of one’s peers is only one of the legal establishment’s “sacred cows” which is ripe for challenge and that a Royal Commission into the workings of our justice system is now long overdue.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
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Temperature: 9 C to 16 C
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