Curbs on jury trials would be an ‘assault on justice’ criminal lawyers have said, urging the government to use extra buildings as courts to clear the backlog.
According to a survey by the Criminal Bar Association, 93% of practising criminal barristers reject the proposal to temporarily abolish the jury system for ‘either-way’ offences, while 95% want the government to open more buildings beyond the court estate for criminal hearings.
The London Criminal Courts Solicitors’ Association said the views of solicitors reflect those of the bar. ‘We need courts to get started so that our clients can end the limbo that many have been living in for several years. But safety to all is key,’ LCCSA said on Twitter.
Caroline Goodwin, QC, chair of the Criminal Bar Association, said: ‘Public confidence in law and order requires the ordinary public’s participation in criminal justice via juries. The CBA ballot is clear with 93% of criminal barristers declaring: leave our jury system alone! Stop tinkering and provide the courts space and sitting days. The notion of scrapping jury trials is an assault on justice, a blow to the common man.’
Last week, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC indicated that legislation to allow trial without jury in more cases could be passed within weeks. MPs on the justice select committee were told that operating either-way cases without juries is now under serious discussion, as the backlog of cases forces radical change to the criminal justice system.
The Crown court’s case backlog stood at 41,000 cases at the end of May, up from 37,434 in December.