Trial by jury or trial by error?


old bailey

Two very high profile cases have occurred recently, Ian Watkins of The Lost Prophets child abuse scandal and the Lee Rigby murder. In both of these cases the content has been distressing and thanks to the impact of social media information has been widespread. Given the availability of information at the touch of a button and the very public nature of one of the crimes leaving no doubt of guilt this has lead to a situation whereby any potential member of the jury is unlikely to have seen or read something about the cases.

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This scenario coupled with the very distressing nature of the content of the crimes has lead me to wondering about the form these sorts of trials should take. I for one wouldn’t like to be on the jury and have to go through such things so maybe we should consider a slight alteration to the law.

Tinkering with the right to be tried by ones peers is at first glance seemingly undermining the basic tenets of the law, freedom and democracy. But the time may have come, in certain high profile cases for the jury to consist of specialists from social services and welfare groups who have been trained to deal with such traumatic images and descriptions.

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Some cases are so high profile that the average jury member is unlikely to be influenced by what they have read and already predisposed to believe a level of guilt or innocence before the trial even begins. Such ideas once they have been planted are notoriously difficult to remove or forget and juror`s are after all only human. Surely these scenarios have already undermined the jury system and maybe it is time to get in the professionals and ease the burden on the average man at the back of the Clapham omnibus