Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Presumption Of Guilt

The Government is proposing that juries should be told of previous convictions for certain categories of crime, including child sex offences and theft. If this happens, there seems little point in the court examining the evidence in that particular case. They might as well just read the charge and the previous convictions and send the jury out to convict.
One of the great myths of our criminal justice system is the wisdom of juries. For every occasion when they make an intelligent and reasoned decision, there are probably another ten when they have the wool pulled over their eyes or are acting from prejudice. Telling them about previous convictions will only make matters worse.
It's worth remembering that all the notorious miscarriages of justice (and hundreds more we don't know about) were convictions by juries. Jury discussions are secret and mostly ring-fenced from any serious research. However, someone who served on a jury once told me cheerfully: "We all agreed that as soon as we saw them [the defendants] we knew they were guilty."


Post a Comment

<< Home