The Law Society today threw its weight behind calls not to curtail trial by jury in response to the pandemic, arguing current challenges with backlogs can be properly addressed by other means.
‘Jury trial is the bedrock of our criminal justice system,’ said Simon Davis, president. ‘We should not be thinking about scrapping jury trials, even if only for some cases and on a temporary basis.’
The Law Society, like other professional legal sector organisations, backs government plans to increase court capacity by opening so-called ‘Nightingale courts’, as well as fully utilising the existing court estate.
‘It is noteworthy that prior to the pandemic, some court rooms were sitting idle, despite there being judges available to sit, because the government did not fund the judicial time needed to run those courts. As a result, the backlog in the Crown court had already risen to 39,214 before the impact of Covid-19,’ said Davis. ‘The starting point must be to make proper and full use of our existing judges and courts, added to by part time judges and increased court space.’
Last week, Chancery Lane warned that proposals to extend court hours must be approached with extreme caution.