Abolishing jury trials in fraud cases
Following the Parliamentary debate on the Government's plans to implement part of the Criminal Justice Act which would allow a number of fraud trials to take place without the presence of a jury which took place in the House of Commons on the 14th November 2005, the Sheffield Law Society has joined the chorus of voices opposing such a plan.
Sheffield Law Society vice-president and partner of national law firm Irwin Mitchell, David Urpeth said, "The availability of trial by jury in serious criminal cases has always been, and should remain, a cornerstone of the English Legal System. It is vital to safeguard the rule of law. Trial by jury promotes public confidence in the criminal justice system and provides transparency of the criminal process".
A further debate is due to take place in the House of Lords on 29 November where the subject of trial without a jury is bound to raise issues amongst peers.
Mr Urpeth, who takes up the presidency of the Sheffield branch of the Law Society in 2006 continued, "The argument by Government that juries are incapable of assessing evidence in fraud trials is an offensive and dangerous assumption. There is a real danger if this proposal moves forward, that there will be a steady erosion of the right to jury trial and that this in turn will lead to the loss of one of the golden threads running through the English Legal System that justice not only must be done, but must be seen to be done.
"The solution lies not in the removal of jury trial, but by better case management. The new court procedure rules and protocols introduced in March must be given an opportunity to work."