Leading Article: Unwelcome precedent for British justice

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The Independent Culture
THE JURY in the trial of Anthony Sawoniuk, a British citizen charged with murder, has gone to Belarus to inspect the graves of his alleged victims. Unpleasant work, but someone has to do it. Or do they? For it is important to question what the jurors gain by visiting the scene in this precedent-setting trial. Mr Zan, the key witness, has already given evidence in London. And the jury could easily have been provided with maps and photographs of the area at the time in question, as in other trials.

The argument is, presumably, that the jurors need to get the context of this case. They need to see whether Mr Zan's sight lines are plausible. They need to talk to people. However, the jury will find visiting mass graves distressing. They will feel disgusted. They may seek means to provide the dead with justice. Conveniently, there is at hand an object for their righteous anger: Mr Sawoniuk. This is the way miscarriages of justice happen.

Furthermore, can the jury be helped in their deliberations by the presence of journalists and camera crews? The media presence will make things more emotive. This trip to Domachevo will have biased the jurors. Even more important, it provides a worrying precedent.