Top judge questions the right to silence: More balanced criminal trials urged

POLICE and prosecutors who argue that criminal trials are weighted too heavily in favour of defendants were given the support of the country's most senior judge yesterday.

Lord Taylor of Gosforth, the Lord Chief Justice, said he believed that the defence should be compelled to disclose its case before trial and that the unqualified right to silence should be amended. Speaking at a press conference to mark his first year in office, he said he hoped the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, due to report next month, would recommend ways of making the trial process more balanced.

Sir Hugh Annesley, Chief Constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, said on Thursday that the justice system was 'heavily loaded' in favour of defendants. He suggested that, in certain circumstances, a defendant's refusal to answer questions should be made an offence.

However, Lord Taylor defended the right of defendants to choose trial by jury - rejecting calls from Barbara Mills QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions, and magistrates, who want greater restrictions in order to prevent trials being aborted because of a late plea of guilty, and to ease pressures on court time.

Lord Taylor said the citizen's right to be tried by his peers went back to the Magna Carta and although removing that right might be more convenient for those managing the courts, 'I simply don't think it is in the interests of justice to do it'.

Lord Taylor welcomed the recent changes to the 1991 Criminal Justice Act - which restored sentencing powers to the courts and abolished the unit fines system. He was one of the prime movers in the changes, having labelled the Act an 'ill-fitting strait-jacket'.

However, he emphasised that he still supported the original philosophy behind the Act that people should only be jailed in the most serious cases when other alternatives to custody had failed.

His influence - in contrast to his predecessor, Lord Lane - at a time of deep unease in the criminal justice system has clearly been recognised by the new Home Secretary, Michael Howard, who asked to see the Lord Chief Justice on his first day.

However, despite their close relationship, the Lord Chief Justice remains an outspoken critic of some government policy - particularly the proposed restrictions on legal aid eligibility.

News
people
News
people And here is why...
News
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
Extras
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
Life and Style
health
News
i100
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Associate Recrutiment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Group have been well ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Real Staffing Group is seeking Traine...

Year 6 Teacher (interventions)

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: We have an exciting opportunity...

PMLD Teacher

Competitive: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teacher urgently required for ...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?