Jun 202009

wh00ps has written a post, complete with picture of the story in the newspaper, about the trial of 4 men accused of an armed robbery at Heathrow, now to take place without a jury.

It made me wonder, for all that trial by jury has been a part of the British polity for centuries, why we use juries in trials at all. And came up with this:

The state acts as the arbiter of justice on behalf of its citizens; everything the state does, legally, is in the name of and as a proxy for the citizenry of that state. In order to preserve this legal idea, legal responsibility and, if necessary, restitution, must be decided on by some representative group of citizens (a jury), who provide the consent of the citizens in general to the courts decision, and legitimise the action of the state on their behalf.

This development – trial without jury – turns its back on the concept that the state is acting as proxy for the citizens. It undermines and even denies the idea that it is the people who are sovereign, who direct the actions of the state, and who give their consent to those actions through representative groups.

This is the state assuming ultimate authority; this is one of the state’s great ‘Fuck you’s to the people of Britain. It is now acting without your consent; it has deemed your consent unnecessary. It has denied you an election, it has denied you the chance to be the arbiter of your representatives’ behaviour, and now it is denying you representation at all. The laws of this country are no longer made according to the will of the people; the courts will now no longer operate according to the will of the people; the State is all – your consent is unnecessary – your sovereignty has ceased to exist – you do not govern yourselves – this is not a democracy. The State is separate from and superior to you, and the consent of the governed to be governed is no longer required.

You have given away your collective power, and now the State sits in judgment of you, not your fellow citizens.

I would say you have allowed this to happen without a murmur, except that I’m sure everyone who reads this blog has been murmuring, asserting, shouting, and screaming it to the skies for some time now. It is everyone else, who goes about his or her daily life without any thought or care of being the servant instead of the master, who should be ashamed today.

  4 Responses to “Trial by jury”

  1. I do feel some shame about not speaking more loudly on any number of issues: I murmur “Huh? That’s stupid!” and go elsewhere. On some issues I do speak up, at least in blog comments. And yes, there are a couple I actually get passionate – even overwrought – about.

    This jury thing is one I have commented about, if mutedly. A jury “might” be subject to outside forces/information, so let’s do away with a jury? Well, then, defense barrister/lawyer might try to influence the Judge with evidence, questions, and arguments – let’s do away with defense representation! The defendant might attempt to sway the Judge – don’t allow defendants in court!

    This is an outrageous misuse of judicial power – and possibly illegal in itself as it was not the defendants who asked for a non-jury trial. Yes, a “special” case, with two of the previous three trials cancelled for apparent jury nobbling – but then, every case is special one way or another.

  2. I have been a juror myself on an attempted murder case. The group of hapless half-wits pressed into jury service were not up to the job. I was the only member who took notes, despite us all being given paper & pencils, and the only one who followed what the case was about. I was also the only one who understood the judge’s guidance. To say nothing of the open racism displayed in the jury room by some of my fellow jurors. The defendant was foreign.

    As a result of this experience, I don’t hold a great deal of faith in the jury system, other than for its symbolism of the use of the public in judgement of peers. If were charged with a crime I did not commit, I wouldn’t opt for a jury trial. If I was guilty I would; on the off chance the fools let me off.

    In many spheres of life we gladly give up our democratic duties to specialists who know better than the average Joe, due to training & experience. Why should determining guilt of a criminal be any different?

    I understand that this case has been abandoned at trial three times due to threats to jurors. It sounds to me like there are two choices:
    1) give up and let them go. 2) try them without a jury. If 1) then they have reinforced that jury nobbling is a productive enterprise for serious criminals which results in aquittal. Jury nobbling will then escalate.

    If they wanted a trial by jury, perhaps they should not have threatened jurors. Perhaps the right to trial by jury should be removed from those who seek to pervert it.

  3. @ marksany – I understand your lack of faith in your fellow citizens, believe me, but that is no reason to say what you have said.

    First, the fact that your fellow jurors did not understand what was going on is not a fault in them, but a fault in the legal system. If ordinary ‘hapless half-wits’ cannot follow the proceedings, what chance is there that the defendant can? How is he to understand the evidence and charges against him? Trial by jury is one of the few things that prevents the legal system from descending into truly hopeless complications that put the defendant at a huge disadvantage.

    Second, there is no reason why properly-connected criminals can’t also threaten a judge, or corrupt him/her. It happens; eliminating the presence of the jury will not necessarily solve this.

    Third, you say you would opt to dispense with a jury if you were innocent of a crime you were being charged with, but surely this depends on the crime. Murder, theft, etc – perhaps; but what if you were being tried for crimes against the State? Would you really, then, want the State to be the only entity considering the evidence against you and judging your guilt or innocence? Would there not be a serious conflict of interest in that circumstance?

    Just sayin’, is all.

  4. Further to that, do you suppose that one of the reasons we give up (more and more) of “our democratic duties to specialists who know better than the average Joe, due to training & experience” is because such specialists exist? Perhaps if people had to think for themselves then juries (and the general population) may not be full of halfwits and this sort of measure would raise more of a stir. Where I was originally going was that this was buried in the middle of the paper and Jordan was on the front page, although whether that is cause or symptom, or both I’m not sure.

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