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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 20th January 2000.

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Photo of Lord Lester of Herne Hill Lord Lester of Herne Hill Liberal Democrat 6:30 pm, 20th January 2000

I am most grateful to the noble and learned Lord the Attorney-General for giving way. Would he just deal with one point on the effect of what is proposed on racial minorities? Is he aware of the letter of 17th January from Sir Herman Ouseley, the Chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, to the Home Secretary, in which, among other things, he wrote that,

"It is the clear view of black community organisations that black defendants believe that they are more likely to get a fair hearing from a jury than in a magistrates' court. There is nothing in the statistical data or the arguments put forward that demonstrates that the removal of the right to elect trial by jury will lead to greater fairness or better justice".

Is the noble and learned Lord aware of that? How can he give the kind of reassurance in the Bill that the black community would need before we took the step of making such a change?