TV shows make Scotland’s juries ‘sceptical’ about lawyers

Horatio Cane, played by David Caruso, in US crime drama CSI: Miami. Picture: Channel 5
Horatio Cane, played by David Caruso, in US crime drama CSI: Miami. Picture: Channel 5
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Juries in Scotland’s courts are increasingly likely to convict criminals because of the influence of legal dramas on television, one of the country’s leading defence lawyers has said.

Gordon Jackson QC said he believes there is more of a “sceptical” approach emerging in jury cases towards lawyers, with the public having become more attuned to forensic evidence as a result of TV shows such as the American Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) franchise.

Mr Jackson is one of the country’s most high-profile defence QCs and Dean of the Faculty of Advocates. He fears there is now the potential for a miscarriage of justice.

“Securing acquittals is much more difficult than it has been,” Mr Jackson told a Sunday newspaper.

“I am not saying this is a bad thing in the public interest, I am simply saying it is undoubtedly more difficult for lawyers like me to get acquittals than it was.

“Jurors are much more sophisticated – they watch all these programmes. [They] are more sceptical. They are much more inclined to say, ‘That’s just lawyers talking, that’s just legal stuff.’”

The QC, who was a Labour MSP between 1999 and 2007, said his claims are based on his own experience in cases.

Conviction rates in Scotland have fallen over the past decade, according to official figures. In 2015-16, 86 per cent of cases in Scotland resulted in a conviction, while 7 per cent resulted in acquittal through either a not guilty or not proven verdict. This compares with an 89 per cent conviction rate ten years ago.

Mr Jackson added that improvements in policing through the advent of new evidence-gathering methods including DNA and mobile phone records has also made life more difficult for defence lawyers.

“The police have got much better than in the past,” he added. “I used to be cross-examining policemen every day – that they were fiddling this, that they were dog that. I cannot remember when I last examined a policeman.”

Mr Jackson was recently involved in a case of a man whose conviction for sexually assaulting a woman was quashed after appeal judges ruled he had been victim of a miscarriage of justice.