Criminal barristers return (almost) Unanimous Verdict on jury trial proposals

July 1, 2020

According to a survey by the Criminal Bar Association, 93% of criminal barristers have emphatically told the Lord Chancellor “Hands off our juries”.

“We are like turkeys voting for Christmas,” one said, because until jury trials are back up and running in near-normal numbers, criminal practitioners (solicitors and barristers) will continue to have no significant income, which has been their situation since March.

Adrian Farrow, criminal barrister at Exchange Chambers, believes the proposal to temporarily abolish the jury system for ‘either-way’ offences is a step too far.

“Reduced-size juries of 7 or 9 or a judge-and-two-magistrates replacing 800 years of our tried and tested jury system is a step too far. Criminal practitioners have arrived at the red line: the proposals for suspending the 12-person jury are seen as a sticking plaster over a gaping wound,” says Adrian.

“At the root of the problem is the long-term underinvestment in the whole criminal justice system – police, CPS, court buildings, probation, prisons – there is no area left unscarred by years of neglect.

“Before Covid-19, there were empty courtrooms and judges unable to try cases because cost-cutting prevented cases being heard – there were over 37,000 crown court trials waiting in the queue. The pandemic has simply added to that total.”

Concludes Adrian:

“The answer is not to tinker with the jury system: instead, proper investment is the necessary critical care for our ailing criminal justice system.”