Criminal Justice Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 15th July 2003.

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Photo of Lord Renton Lord Renton Conservative 4:15 pm, 15th July 2003

The noble Baroness is fully justified, if I may say so, in not going the whole way with her own party on every occasion. Although I shall vote against Clauses 41 and 49 because they go too far in getting rid of jury trials, I feel bound to point out that there is an exception to nearly every good rule. I wish to draw the Committee's attention to an experience which I had which I believe illustrates that.

When I appeared for the defence in a fraud case of great complexity and with a lot of money involved before a jury, it lasted five weeks. It was very complicated. Most of the jury were not very well educated and found it impossible to follow the evidence and the arguments. Indeed, from time to time some of them fell asleep. When the five weeks were coming to an end, the High Court judge decided that he had to direct the jury, by implication, and that is what he did. He went a long way towards doing so.

Therefore, I favour giving power to the court to do without a jury if that is what the defence also wants and if the prosecution agrees. If the clauses are voted down in Committee, I shall come back with a narrow amendment on Report that would enable the court to try any lengthy, complicated fraud case without a jury if that is proposed on behalf of the accused and agreed to by the prosecution.