One of the fundamental bases of the British Judicial system is the right to a jury trial. If the local tearaway, or junior (junior in terms of years , not in depths of knowledge) criminal is hauled up before the local Magistrates, he can either accept the Bench as his place of trial, or he may elect for a Jury trial in a Crown Court. If the accused reckons he stands a better chance of convincing a Jury rather than a magistrate, fair enough; the trouble being that if he has put the Judicial system to a fair amount of trouble, he then stands a much greater chance of being clobbered by that same system if found guilty. But, and it is a big ‘But’, the accused always has the right to choose his method of trial, and some may argue that a panel of twelve ordinary people may have a better and more less-jaundiced look at the evidence than perhaps a Magistrate who sees the same old stuff day in and out.
Now there are many things which can go wrong with a jury trial, including a very-well prepared and vocal Defence Counsel who, by virtue of intense scrutiny and questioning, demolishes the statements of people who are witnesses, and are, after all, only other members of the public. True, that does not happen very often, but it does happen. There are many other arguments against Juries, but the mind of man has yet to derive a better alternative, so we should live with it! So perhaps the Crown Prosecution Service ought perhaps to think again when they rejoice at the first Non-Jury trial in some four hundred years, which actually resembled the Star Chamber of that ill-starred monarch, King Charles 1st! I accept that there were special circumstances, such as persistent jury ‘nobbling’ as well as a tendency for bail to be allowed a little too easily, but I do not accept the arguments for continuing the Judge alone sitting on any case, no matter how high the potential that a criminal gets off if a Jury trial is undertaken. The Accused should always see his accuser, and the Jury represents us, and the Crown, as his accuser. They should see and watch the demeanour of the accused, and he should be allowed to see his accusers in Court.
Which is why I am so disturbed to read of this practice, which apparently is being ‘trialled’ in Sussex. They are asking ‘concerned’ members of the driving public to report, online and totally anonymously, incidents of bad or dangerous driving, possible driving while under the influence. Worthing Borough Council have decided to get people to ‘inform’ on road users who, on Page 5, in Vibe’s own wonderfully grammatic style, those who insist on getting right up your bumper, still use their mobile phones while driving, not wearing seat belts, are really annoying and dangerous to others. You can report these types of behaviours and others like speeding, under age drivers, drink or drug driving.
So the good residents of Worthing are all qualified to state, categorically, that Driver A is below the legal age limit, whilst Driver B is driving under the influence of either drink or drugs, WITHOUT having any further information, legal training or guidance in the Law! Driver C can be reported for ‘dangerous driving’ while Driver D is driving without documentation!
The last time I read about things like that, our good friend Erich Honnekker was running the German Democratic Republic, and his buddy Erich Mielke was running the STASI.