U.k.: "opinion Divided On Trials Without A Jury"


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cuchulainn
April 12, 2003, 12:27 PM
I ask again, are they going to bring on all the elements of Diplock courts?

from the Evening Post

http://www.thisisnottingham.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=66056&command=displayContent&sourceNode=65583&contentPK=5103497OPINION DIVIDED ON TRIALS WITHOUT A JURY

12:00 - 12 April 2003

The Home Secretary was in Nottingham yesterday for an update on the national firearms amnesty. The stage was set for a good news story with plenty of photographs of Mr Blunkett with surrendered guns. But, in response to an Evening Post question, he revealed controversial plans which would allow trials without juries, as Crime Correspondent Steven Shukor reports

Not even a Hollywood director could have improved on Notts Police's stage design for the Home Secretary's press conference. Two tables were bedecked with the firearms surrendered by the public, from shotguns to handguns.

Gun amnesty posters on blue felt boards and a team of impressive-looking firearms officers with bullet-proof vests, machine guns and American-style caps, provided the backdrop for Mr Blunkett's good news announcement.

He said the 158 weapons, including the 15 handguns handed in during the first two weeks of the amnesty in Notts was "gratifying."

In the first week of the national gun amnesty, which continues until April 30, 71,000 rounds of ammunition were turned over to police.

"Around 8,000 guns which could otherwise have been used in crime, have been taken off our streets," said Mr Blunkett.

"This includes hundreds of handguns, along with potentially lethal air weapons and imitation guns that can cause fear and distress.

"Uniquely, a rocket launcher was handed in to police in the West Midlands."

He pledged during a visit to Nottingham's Central Police Station to introduce new legislation to crack down on the guns and gang culture, and urged community leaders to provide more positive role models for young people.

He said the police needed the help of the community to take out the "evil organised criminal gangs".

So far so good. His good news briefing was going swimmingly until he touched on the prickly issue of witness intimidation.

He said new legislation was being considered to offer additional protection to witnesses giving evidence in court.

The Post asked him what measures he was considering to enable witnesses to give evidence in court anonymously.

The Home Secretary answered: "We are in the process of seeing how witnesses give evidence by video or with protection and also allowing there to be judge-only trials.

"Where there is very strong evidence of intimidation of witnesses or intimidation of the jury, we will propose that a judge sits alone."

He accepted the plans would be controversial but urged people to support the idea to help the victims of gun crime.

Trial by jury is a pillar of the British judicial system especially with regards to criminal cases.

The only exceptions have been with terrorist-related trials in Northern Ireland where a judge can choose to hear a trial in private.

Superintendent Alan Butler, Notts Police's spokesman on gun crime, welcomed the idea of judge-only trials.

"Courts without a jury, I think, is hugely innovative and will protect juries," he said. "But there are fundamental issues, such as civil rights, with regards to judge-only trials that need to be considered."

Retired Nottingham judge Keith Matthewman said trials without juries may be necessary in some cases.

"If juries are affected or become affected and a trial by judge is the only way of safeguarding a jury then so be it.

"One has to be practical about these matters and if it means that criminals don't escape punishment then we have to take measures which normally we would not take."

But the Home Secretary's proposals were condemned by the Law Society and civil rights group, Liberty.

A Law Society spokesman said: "We continue to oppose the abolition of the right to elect jury trial in serious or complex fraud cases and removing the right to elect jury trial in cases involving children and young people. The Law Society is urging the Government to drop these proposals."

Liberty spokesman Roger Bingham said: "Fact-finding by jury is the best way to deal with criminal cases.

"Juries are the best source of open and fair justice and we're concerned by anything to cut those back.

"If a juror has been intimidated then it's a good case for replacing that juror or protecting the jury. It's not an excuse for scrapping one of the keys to fair justice."

Amnesty boost

Home Secretary David Blunkett said he was "gratified" by the number of guns surrendered in Notts since the start of the amnesty.

A total of 158 firearms have been handed in, including 15 real handguns.

"The amnesty is making a contribution to a wider effort to reduce gun crime," said Mr Blunkett.

But he was critical of a judge's sentence of a Nottingham man caught in possession of an arsenal of firearms, reported by the Evening Post this week.

Mr Blunkett said the decision to jail Leo Bigus, of Sherwood, for only 12 months was "wrong".

But new guidelines in the Criminal Justice Bill would make sentencing more uniform, he said. "Judges are getting the message that the public expects something a little more than a social work approach to very serious crime."

Superintendent Alan Butler said he was encouraged by the number of firearms so far surrendered in two weeks.

"Every weapon handed in is one threat less, one less ability to commit crime," he said.

The force was looking to match or improve on the 450 guns handed in during the 1996 amnesty in the wake of the Dunblane massacre, he added.

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Standing Wolf
April 12, 2003, 06:52 PM
"One has to be practical about these matters and if it means that criminals don't escape punishment then we have to take measures which normally we would not take."

"Every weapon handed in is one threat less, one less ability to commit crime..."

Rarely does a day pass when I fail to feel grateful to our forefathers for having rebelled against the English and founded a republic.

You couldn't pay me to take a vacation in England.

pax
April 12, 2003, 07:15 PM
"One has to be practical about these matters and if it means that criminals don't escape punishment then we have to take measures which normally we would not take."
Ah, yes, the old, old story: "This threat is so serious that human rights don't matter anymore."

Whether it is Americans talking about terrorism, or Brits talking about "gun violence," or Hitler talking about the Jewish menace, such reasoning always leads to evil results.

pax

One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation. -- Thomas B. Reed

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