Criminal Justice (Mode of Trial) Bill [H.L.]

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:30 pm on 20th January 2000.

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Photo of Lord Donaldson of Lymington Lord Donaldson of Lymington Crossbench 5:30 pm, 20th January 2000

Discrimination in any form always constitutes a great difficulty and a great danger. If particular ethnic minorities have equal faith in magistrate as in Crown Court trial, the problem will not arise. However, if the fear of discrimination arises in the mind of an accused, he ought to have no fear of expressing that and the magistrates ought to weigh that carefully and also take account of the matters that have just been raised.

I conclude by saying two things. It is said that jury trials give the opportunity for a representative group of people to express their abhorrence of the law as it stands. That is true. It is suggested that that may be the case as regards various parts of European law. That may well be true. I regard that as a perfectly good ground for asking for jury trial. It should not be given automatically but it should be given if some substance can be demonstrated.

I wish to make it absolutely clear that I have the greatest possible faith in the general body of the magistracy to enforce and carry out the law as expressed by this Parliament.