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Tories Seek to Protect Trial by Jury

Lord Advocate, Dorothy Bain QC, has recently claimed that trials without a jury ‘don’t impact on the right to a fair trial’. In discussing the use of juries Ms Bain said that ‘we need to look at the suitability of a jury to prosecute a case’. 

This interview took place around the time that Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab, expressed his commitment to enshrining the right to trial by jury in England and Wales in a new ‘bill of rights’. 

Mr Raab stated: “Trial by jury is another ancient right, applied variably around the UK, that doesn’t feature in the ECHR, but will be in our bill of rights.”

He continued: “So, we’ll end the duty on UK courts to take into account the case law of the Strasbourg court which has at various points been applied as a duty to slavishly follow Strasbourg. We’ll make crystal clear that the UK Supreme Court, not Strasbourg, has the ultimate authority to interpret the law in the UK.”

In considering the use of judge-only trial, Ms Bain expressed that there is ‘no suggestion that that’s an unfair system’. Reference was made to the fact that thousands of cases are heard by judges alone elsewhere in the system. 

In an interview with Scottish Legal News, Thomas Ross QC explained that it would be “a very powerful statement if the UK government was legislating to enshrine the right of trial by jury in England – at the same time as a Scottish lord advocate was advocating the withdrawal of that right”.

He continued: The jury’s role in a proper democracy is extremely important – it provides protection to the citizen against the excesses of an authoritarian administration – who have absolutely no control over the composition of it. As we prepare to move into 2022, a Conservative UK government thinks it necessary to act to protect Scottish citizens from the Scottish government withdrawing the right to be tried by a jury in serious cases.”

He went on to say that this was “not an outcome that those who campaigned for devolution in 1997 would have predicted”.

 

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