Criminal Justice Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:49 pm on 15th July 2003.

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Photo of Lord Brennan Lord Brennan Labour 6:49 pm, 15th July 2003

I want briefly to comment on the proposal. The eloquence of the noble Lord's presentation of the amendment does not overcome its inadequacy as a proposal. I shall deal with it in four ways. First, good taste requires me to limit the kind of anatomical metaphor that might be appropriate, so I shall content myself with saying that the noble Lord has got it back to front. In his analysis, he accepted the present system as the norm. I vigorously challenge that. It should not be the norm. Why should we put up with trials that go on for months on end? Why should we allow lawyers to tell us that it is so complex that one can understand it only when one has looked at it for six months? It is absolutely ridiculous. We should change that system in favour of the jury. The example of America that the noble Lord gave merely illustrates the fact that if one is tough up front in regulatory control, one dramatically reduces the number of trials that are necessary for fraud.

I shall move to my second point. I did not follow it up with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Cooke of Thorndon, in the previous debate for reasons of time, but I reject his historical analysis. The passage of our democratic history in the 20th century, which led to ordinary people having the vote—emancipation—was matched by their having the right and duty to act as jurors. The history books on the law show that it was regarded as a great democratic advance that ordinary folk would judge as jurors. I am completely against, in a democratic sense, the idea of any kind of special jury.

The third point that I must regretfully criticise is the idea that the people on the panel of special jurors should be determined by a Secretary of State. I cannot believe that we would want to create a jury system in which those chosen were the product of government nomination to the panel from which they were chosen.