Thursday, October 28, 2010

jury's out

For certain types of criminal offences, the accused has the right to elect trial by jury at a crown court even though the magistrates have decided that it is perfectly suitable to be heard in a magistrates court (summary trial).

Obviously the accused is not opting for crown court because the sentence, if convicted, is likely to be higher, which it is. He (or she) is thinking, or more likely has been (wrongly) advised by a lawyer, that there is a better chance of acquittal. There isn’t ! Not if the trial goes ahead.

What there is though is a better chance of a subjective or prejudiced verdict, e.g. from a jury made up of like minded people to the accused or one largely comprised of those who really don’t care whether the result is guilty or not. A more objective and well thought through decision is much more likely from three well trained and experienced magistrates. They have to give full reasons for the verdict reached in all trials even when the offence is at the lowest end of the seriousness scale, whereas a jury can return a verdict of guilty in a murder trial without having to give a single reason; their decision can be made on instinct, like/dislike of the defendant, or the performances of the legal advocates.

The other hope from electing crown court is that the key prosecution witness(es) will not turn up to give evidence, as the thought of a higher court trial can be more intimidating and upsetting for witnesses than the relatively user-friendly magistrates court. There is no reason to believe that a better quality of justice is dispensed at the home of the wigs and gowns.

The right to elect trial by jury should be removed. It is an anachronism, an anomaly and a wholly irrational feature of the criminal justice system. And, with a crown court trial costing about ten times as much as a summary trial, it is very expensive too.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

cutting justice

In the government's long feared and much leaked spending review, the powers that be have cut the Ministry of Justice £9.5bn budget by 23%. Only £1bn of that is spent on courts, which actually have a purpose in dealing with perpetrators of crime and identifying those who have been wrongly arrested and charged. But the powers think £1bn is too much. And they are worried that courts may spend their money in sending serious criminals to prisons which are getting rather full (although short prison sentences are decreasing) and nobody will build more.

Compare that £1bn to the £40bn that was spent on bailing out Lloyds Bank & RBS, who have survived (bless them) so they could pay out more obscene bonuses to the incompetent, greedy, odious bankers who brought about the economic mess we are now wading through.

Have a glance too at the £7bn which will continue to be spent on international aid, to countries some of which can afford nuclear weapons and massive purchases of arms and fighter aircraft (eg MIGs from Russia) whilst letting their own people die from starvation, easily controllable disease or flooding; countries that can afford to stage major international sporting events and even engage in a space programme.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

so now prosperity begins to mellow

The title of this post, as you may know, comes from Shakespeare's King Richard III. It is spoken by Margaret in Act 4 Scene 4. Once the queen of King Henry VI, and owner of much of France, she is now rather unhappy with her life, skulking around and mostly blaming Richard who, although basically a good bloke, admittedly did kill her husband and son and take the crown.

Margaret starts the scene in which she confronts Richard's mother with all the nasty things that Richard is supposed to have done (like she really needed to be told !) with the words :

So now prosperity begins to mellow
And drop into the rotten mouth of death

She later describes Richard with some choice Shakesperian slagging off :

A hell-hound that doth hunt us all to death
That foul defacer of God's handiwork
That excellent grand tyrant of the earth
Hell's black intelligencer

He had clearly fallen off Margaret's christmas card list but she couldn't resist expressing a wish for his future :

Earth gapes, hell burns, fiends roar, saints pray
To have him suddenly conveyed away
Cancel his bond of life, dear God, I pray
That I may live to say
The dog is dead.

So, do you feel like that about anyone ?
Politicans perhaps; or footballers, tv presenters, estate agents, z-list celebrities, journalists, politicians (worth mentioning twice), rich people, white van drivers, parking wardens, relatives, your boss, criminals, drunks, bankers, lousy comedians, bloggers, bureaucrats, anyone who grinds us down.......