Letters: Our jurors do need more help

 

Share

The judge in the Vicky Pryce trial felt constrained to answer the jury's question "Can you define reasonable doubt?" by answering "a doubt which is reasonable". Alas, it has become established that no explanation of "reasonable doubt" should be given to juries. Judges are required to direct juries that, before they can convict, they must be "sure" of the defendant's guilt.

It is said that "reasonable doubt" and "sure" are ordinary words which need no further exposition. I disagree. First, in the context of a criminal trial, the ambit of what is or is not a "reasonable" doubt is by no means clear.

A jury member may think that the fact that defence counsel is able to submit that something represents a doubt means that it must be reasonable. As to being "sure", does that mean being absolutely 100 per cent sure? The answer is no, but without due instruction, members of a jury may think otherwise.

Here is what an American judge is likely to tell a jury about "reasonable doubt":

"The law recognises that in dealing with human affairs, there are very few things in this world that we know with absolute certainty. Therefore the law does not require the People to prove a defendant guilty beyond all possible doubt ... it must be beyond reasonable doubt. A reasonable doubt is an honest doubt of the defendant's guilt for which a reason exists, based on the nature and quality of the evidence. It is an actual doubt, not an imaginary doubt . It is a doubt that a reasonable person, acting in a matter of this importance, would be likely to entertain because of the evidence that was presented or because of the lack of convincing evidence."

Juries and our criminal justice system would benefit immensely were directions to be given along similar lines.

Anthony Hallgarten QC

London NW1

Is it possible that questions at the Vicky Pryce trial were framed by a majority of the jurors who clearly understood their responsibilities in an effort to obtain answers that would persuade a minority who did not?

PA Wrigglesworth

Doncaster

Vegans are fighting fit – not weaklings

I was disappointed you gave so much space to an article on John Nicholson's book The Meat Fix (22 February). At best, his experiences are anecdotal.

I am in my fifties and have been vegan for over 40 years. I still play football and tennis every week, and I am able to beat much younger meat-eating opponents. People often assume I am younger than I am. I have two children who play football, tennis and cricket, are in their top PE groups and play for their school teams. They are slightly above average height and of average build, and are both taller than their parents. They have been vegan since birth.

It takes 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1lb of meat, yet it only takes 25 gallons to produce 1lb of wheat. We live in a world of over 7 billion people where more than a billion people go to sleep every night hungry and thirsty. Meat is a selfish, inefficient way of producing food. A meat-free diet didn't do the likes of Ed Moses, Carl Lewis and Martina Navratilova any harm.

The conclusions reached in The Meat Fix are preposterous. Otherwise we'd see vegans and vegetarians crawling along the pavements, barely able to walk, on their way back from spending their benefits, because presumably they haven't the strength to work.

Ron Grainger

Halifax, West Yorkshire

John Nicholson (22 February) gives the impression that vegetarian and vegan diets are bad for your health, whereas nothing could be further from the truth. Scientific studies have repeatedly linked the vegan diet to lower levels of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, cholesterol and certain types of cancer. While Mr Nicholson may have had a bad experience of being vegetarian and vegan, the exact details of his diet were conspicuously absent from the article. An unbalanced diet of any kind can have adverse consequences. His is just one case and does not reflect the experiences of the majority of vegans who live healthy, active lives.

Ben Martin

Animal Aid

Tonbridge, Kent

History begins with stories

Edward Pearce (Letter, 20 February) appears to be unaware that the Reformation in England came about initially because of Anne Boleyn – you can't teach one without the other. Similarly, both what happened at Stalingrad and during the English Civil War was... war. If students are to be able to interpret and interrogate the causes of war, then learning about either event would enable them to do this.

However, I would suggest that none of these topics is suitable primary school material. What's important is to choose topics that will engage students of whatever age – and the way to do this is through the story: the story of Catherine of Aragon and Henry VIII and their lack of a son, the appearance of Anne Boleyn, and so on. If the story engages the students, they will want to interrogate the sources and find out more. In this way, their historical skills will develop.

Paula Saunders

St Albans

Let's fight a war for new energy

The energy crisis threatens because renewables are not sufficiently developed. They could be much speeded up with some real "wartime" effort.

During the Second World War, European mainland ports could be easily defended, so a portable harbour was designed and built. Plans for the Mulberry harbour, were drawn up in seven weeks.

We could do much more and quickly to develop renewable energy, obtaining energy from waste, rivers and tides, the sun and the wind, with big turbines – plus little windmills for small uses, such as street lamps, as in Switzerland.

Elsa Woodward

High Wycombe

God is no more real than fairies

Susan Rowe (Letter, 22 February) says that her position on her religious belief has been reached on the basis of "reasoned reflection on the available evidence".

I have studied religions extensively across cultures and through time, and I have yet to find in any of them any objectively verifiable evidence that would support belief in the existence of the supernatural agency that Ms Rowe would refer to as God. The Bible is no more evidence for the existence of God than the hieroglyphs on the walls of the Pyramids are evidence for the existence of Ra and Horus. Where there is no objectively verifiable evidence, the process of reasoned reflection can lead to only one inescapable conclusion.

There is no evidence for the existence of fairies at the bottom of the garden, in spite of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stated belief in the Cottingley Fairies. But that does not mean the intercession of fairies in worldly affairs should be a valid subject on the school curriculum, or a valid basis for the Government to support denominational fairy faith schools.

Alistair McBay

Methven, Perth

AC Grayling (21 February) appeals to the "clarity of reason and the innate warmth of the human heart" as bases of enlightened education. One might wonder on reading the cover of the same issue of The Independent how the innate warmth of the human heart is evidenced in the case of Oscar Pistorius, the "betrayal" of Lord Patten by his executives, and the case of Vicky Pryce and her disgraced former husband.

Grayling's appeal to the innate warmth of the human heart is his own "faith" and must be maintained in the face of evidence for its absence in the press.

Thomas Merriam

Basingstoke

Am I a mongoose or an amoeba?

The idea that the head of RBS receives millions of pounds because he does a "difficult and demanding job" (12 February) seems far-fetched.

Recently, I was told the CEO of a certain organisation receives 10 times the average salary there because of his greater work experience and knowledge.

If a person is 10 times more intelligent than his contemporaries, do the rest have the intelligence of a mongoose? And against those paid millions in salaries and bonuses, we are supposed to be as intelligent as what? An amoeba?

Hamid Elyassi

London E14

Only a few lambs will be affected

Schmallenberg disease has led to high losses of newborn lambs in some early-lambing flocks. While this is distressing, our understanding of how the disease works means we do not expect this to be a common occurrence in other flock types over the lambing season.

Some early lambing flocks such as those described in your article ("Lambing season left blighted by deadly virus", 19 February) have specific management practices so that their ewes will all lamb around the same point. This can make them more vulnerable to high losses if the disease infects pregnant mothers at a critical point of early pregnancy. Infection outside early pregnancy has no lasting effects on sheep or cattle, and we expect them to then develop good immunity.

The overall impact of Schmallenberg has been assessed as low across Europe. Evidence shows that infected flocks usually experience losses much closer to five per cent of newborns.

It has been reported that a submission has been made to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate by a commercial company for a vaccine licence. This process is independent from Government and it's right that time is taken over any application to ensure it is effective and safe. We hope a vaccine will be available in time for next year's breeding season.

Nigel Gibbens

UK Chief Veterinary Officer

London SW1

If only sheep farmers weren't so hellbent on producing ever earlier "spring" lambs by putting the ewes to the ram at the height of the mosquito, tick and midge season, rather than later when the insects are gone... But why go back to the sensible old regimes of later conception and later births, when there might be yet another medical intervention which can be jabbed into these already compromised animals we turn into meat?

Sara Starkey

Tonbridge, Kent

Roots of terror

The Birmingham terror plot has shocked every Muslim. The acts and intentions of these terrorists have nothing to do with Islam. But it is important to tackle the reasons behind extremism, including a foreign policy based on allegiance to the US and wars resulting in the death of hundreds of thousands of Muslims. This has been accompanied by demonisation of Muslims by some sections of the media, in which they see their religion misrepresented without being able to get their message across.

Mohammed Samaana

Belfast

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Argyll Scott International: FP&A Manager Supply Chain

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Argyll Scott is recruiting for a Permane...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property NQ+

£30000 - £50000 per annum + EXCELLENT: Austen Lloyd: COMMERCIAL PROPERTY SOLI...

Argyll Scott International: Retail Commercial Finance Analyst

Benefits: Argyll Scott International: Due to further expansion, a leading inte...

Langley James : Senior Technician; Promotion & Training Opp; Borough; upto £32k

£27000 - £32000 per annum + training: Langley James : Senior Technician; Promo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands in Shanghai  

Is Russia and China’s ‘Nato of the East’ more than a Potemkin alliance?

Nigel Morris
A petition calling for Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party, to be included has been signed by nearly 200,000 people  

Let me list the reasons that the Green Party should definitely not be allowed into the TV election debates...

Mark Steel
US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

Immigration: Obama's final frontier

The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines
Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?

What are Jaden and Willow on about?

Will Smith's children have made waves with a gloriously over-the-top interview, but will their music match their musings?
Fridge gate: How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces

Cold war

How George Osborne keeping his fridge padlocked shows a frosty side to shared spaces
Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

Stocking fillers: 10 best loo books

From dogs in cars to online etiquette, while away a few minutes in peace with one of these humorous, original and occasionally educational tomes
Malky Mackay appointed Wigan manager: Three texts keep Scot’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

Three texts keep Mackay’s rehabilitation on a knife-edge

New Wigan manager said all the right things - but until the FA’s verdict is delivered he is still on probation, says Ian Herbert
Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

Louis van Gaal: the liberal, the enemy and... err, the poet

‘O, Louis’ is the plaintive title of a biography about the Dutchman. Ian Herbert looks at what it tells us about the Manchester United manager