To reduce a traffic jam of hundreds of thousands of lawsuits pending, be compounded by the current pandemic, the government plans to spend of popular juries for some procedures, causing a lifting of shields.
In the United Kingdom, the crimes (murder, rape) are all judged by a jury comprised of 12 citizens, drawn at random, when minor offences to pass in front of the magistrates.
Between the two, of serious crimes, such as thefts, burglaries or drug trafficking, can pass one or the other of course.
It is to these latter cases that the minister of Justice Robert Buckland has been estimated on Tuesday before the Parliament that it might be a good idea, “last resort” to go to the jury. He said he was “required to” examine “all the possibilities” in the face ” an unprecedented challenge “.
This proposal has prompted criticism in the whole of the political class, as well as in the legal world, who have denounced the effect of budget cuts in recent years that the new coronavirus.
This ” would transform the face of justice, for the worse “, said in an open letter to the president of the Association of the criminal bar, Caroline Goodwin, who strongly advocates this ” justice rendered by the peers, by an ordinary member of the society “.
“The system of jurors is not broken, it does not need to be repaired “, she added. “What we need to be resurrected, it is the desire of the government to invest” in the justice system.
According to the ministry of Justice, approximately 525 000 cases are pending in the English courts, the vast majority of which are prior to the outbreak of COVID-19. For Ian Burnett, chief justice of England and Wales, what are “years and years of” under-funding ” will now return against us “.
The situation has further deteriorated with the virus, as the closure of some courts, the staff ill, and the new rules of distancing physics have required a massive reorganization and the postponement of many trials.
According to the minister, the situation will now improve quickly, ” with the reopening of the courts. But the jury trial remain part of the “more difficult” to raise, warned Susan Acland-Hood, director-general of the judicial administration.
Several solutions might be envisaged to comply with the rules of distancing physical: some buildings are already refurbished in the ad hoc tribunals and the number of jurors may, in some cases, be reduced from twelve to seven people, as it had already been done during the Second world War.
But according to Robert Buckland, that would not be enough to absorb the delay before Easter 2021, as the wishes of the government, hence its proposal that would constitute “the right balance” between a court system that is “fair, free, and fair” and the ” way to overcome this particular crisis “.
Judges are ” not representative “
Opposed to this change, the lawyer, Joanna Hardy explains that the magistrates are far from being “representative of the various communities that they serve,” emphasizing that only 4% of judges were from ethnic minorities in 2019 and that 84% had more than 50 years.
“The random selection of 12 citizens will never be a mixture representative perfect, but it will always be better,” she said.
To maintain this system, the labour opposition has proposed an increase in the number of local non-used and have been converted in the courts, but Ms Acland-Hood advised that it would be necessary to find about 200 additional sites in order to reduce the backlog.
The minister’s proposal still finds some supporters in the legal world. The judge Ian Burnett ruled that she ” deserved to be taken into consideration “, noting in particular the presence usual two volunteers, non-professionals from each judge for the offences.
For the former president of the supreme Court Brenda Hale, interviewed in a podcast from the BBC, the virus gives an opportunity for the Uk to ” rethink why and in what circumstances we need a trial with a jury “.