Rough Justice

12 Angry MenThe jury system is a fundamental principle of a democratic justice system.

The shifty, the criminal and the stupid have an inalienable right to be judged by a jury of their peers and that was certainly true of the latter category in the case of the Crown versus Vicky Pryce.

Has it come to the point where a group of citizens have failed to grasp the basics of the legal system or even a working understanding of the English language?

I won’t list the ten questions of clarification that the jury put to Mr Justice Sweeney – you can read them all here – but I thought it was an understatement to say that the jury demonstrated a ‘deficit in understanding’ of its role.

Not understanding what is meant by ‘reasonable doubt’ is a pretty poor show, but the question that really showed them up was:

Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it either from the prosecution or defence?

What?! They want to base their decision on what their mate in the pub said, a tarot card reading or telepathic messages from the man in the moon? The mind boggles. I haven’t heard anything so farcical since Tony Hancock’s Twelve Angry Men.

Which is an excellent excuse to embed Hancock’s 1959 masterpiece!

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

3 comments… Add yours
  • Trevor Rowley 22nd February 2013

    I heard this article on the radio (Four?) on the day it broke (Wednesday?) when the old BBC legal man was wheeled in (Joshua Rosenburg?) and I couldn’t help feel what an arrogant herbert he was when he went to some length to tell the female bod in the studio who was presenting the programme how decidedly dim the average jury member was (and these in particular). I think, if someone has the courage to ask the question in the first place, it shows that at least they are giving the matter some thought (rather than those who want to either nod off or get it all over and done with early so they can get back home for United on the tele.

    As for “what is reasonable doubt?” the “Any Questions” panel on Radio Four this evening thought it was a perfectly reasonable question to ask (as did young Dimbleby – get them all mixed up, can’t remember which is which). I have to go along with them, Mr P.

    Reply
    • Mr Parrot 23rd February 2013

      I also heard Joshua Rosenberg on the radio and saw him on tv too (he was a busy BBC boy on Wednesday) and felt that his incredulity was simply because he had never come across such a thing in all his time spent in reporting legal matters.

      And that’s why I don’t believe that it highlights a need for change in the system – hard cases make bad laws as it were. I certainly wouldn’t go along with Peter Hitchens’ suggestion of some sort of IQ/wisdom test.

      Having said that, the judge was right to be exasperated that the jury needed an explanation of the concept of ‘reasonable doubt’ and whether they could make up their minds based on evidence they hadn’t heard!

      Reply
  • Trevor Rowley 23rd February 2013

    To continue the theme of courts/the law/them as knows and them as knows nowt, I was listenining to the radio (BBC Five Live) when they kept breaking away from the regular, scheduled part of the programme to “go over” to Pretoria for the bail hearing for Oscar Pistorius. The chappie doing most of the talking was, I believe, described as “the magistrate” and he banged on for an absolute lifetime about the history of bail/where it came from/who does it this way/who does it that way. He then launched into a totally academic analysis of what shouldn’t get linked to what, what would depend on something else etc. Cutting a very long story short, this chap totally loved the sound of his own voice as he went over the hills, down the dales and, invariably far away. Then, just as we were all about to die of total paralysis…he gave him bail. Is the law an ass? No, but it can be a bit of a donkey.

    Reply

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