Letter: Trial by jury 'only aspect of system that promotes trust in criminal justice'

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The Independent Online
Sir: The institution of the jury is deeply embedded in the psyche of the English. However worthy magistrates may be, they are not trusted to be fair. This mistrust may not be deserved, but it cannot be ignored.

A jury trial is, in essence, a simple, homespun thing. But if the costs of jury trial, as we know it today, are too high, then economies can be made without sacrificing the jury itself.

Since the abolition of the quarter sessions in 1972, the Crown Court has grown into a wonderful empire for the civil service. A visitor may see for himself that the Crown Court is often housed lavishly, with separate rooms and separate lavatories for barristers and solicitors, and plenty of carpet. Trials there are attended by a cloud of functionaries, both with and without wigs, gowns and something to do.

The county quarter sessions, as I recall, operated perfectly well with a small clerical staff and shared accommodation with the local council.

The health service reforms of the early 1970s have gone. The local government reform of 1972 is being reworked. A critical eye should now be cast upon the courts which were reformed in the same misguided era. It would be crazy, but sadly typical, to cut out juries, to save luxuriant support services.

Yours faithfully,

ROBERT MORFEE

Yeovil, Somerset

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