Clash over curbs on jury trials
Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, thrust himself to the centre of the campaign against the idea, which he denounced at a London conference as socially divisive and legally unacceptable. Barbara Mills QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, speaking at the same conference, flatly contradicted him.
The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice recommended in a report this month that defendants should lose their right to insist on crown court trial for certain offences. Magistrates should decide which cases they heard and which they sent to a crown court jury, leaving defendants with no say in the matter.
Lord Taylor, giving his first detailed response to the commission's 352 recommendations, said he welcomed much of the report.
But earlier he had told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: 'I think most people feel that trial by jury is one of our fundamental rights and that it should not be sacrificed largely on the altar of the economy of time and money.'
In his speech, he went on to criticise the commission for suggesting that magistrates take suspects' reputations into account when deciding whether to hear a case themselves. Critics say this means that jury trials would be offered to middle-class defendants in court for the first time but denied to working-class defendants with previous convictions.
Lord Taylor echoed that view. 'I do not accept that a defendant with a criminal record has, by that token, a weaker claim to a jury trial. On the contrary, he or she may well feel specially vulnerable,' he said.
Lord Taylor also attacked the commission's call for a formal system of plea bargaining, under which defendants would be told what sort of discounts they could expect on sentences if they admitted guilt. That would place innocent suspects under pressure to plead guilty, he said.
But he welcomed the equally controversial recommendation that the defence should disclose the essence of its case before the start of the trial. 'Justice is not served by keeping the prosecution unaware of what they will need to prove or disprove.'
Speaking later, Mrs Mills took issue with Lord Taylor over the call to limit jury trials. She said: 'I would not be supporting either personally or on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service anything I thought was going to be socially divisive, or looked like one law for the rich and powerful and one for the poor and those whose voice isn't heard.'
South Korea ferry passengers who were told to stay put 'got trapped' aboard sinking ship
Are beards attractive? Ryan Gosling says yes, but science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge and find out who's right
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness 'unqualified' to testify
Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
Oscar Pistorius trial: Defence witness contradicts athlete's version in new blow for defence team
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for sale...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Babies cry at night to stop mothers procreating, scientists claim
- 3 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 4 Andre Johnson: Wu-Tang Clan-discovered rapper severed his penis and jumped from LA building
- 5 Mrs Doubtfire 2: Robin Williams set to star in sequel to 1993 comedy
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...
£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...
£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...