Why everyone’s got it in for juries. And why they are wrong.

Prosecutors, judges and governments have always disliked juries. They are expensive, unpredictable and uncontrollable. How much more convenient if they did not exist. In some ways the miniature democracy of a jury resembles another irritant to the governing class: the electorate as a whole. But whilst abolishing the electorate may be an unattainable dream abolishing juries is a much more practical objective and every few years a government tries to do just that. Juries in most civil cases are now all but extinct but repeated attacks on criminal juries – whether to try complex frauds or simple shoplifting cases have generally been repulsed.

The current government’s legal aid cuts will inflict terrible damage on the legal professions and the criminal courts but the Coalition has largely shied away from attacking the jury system itself. Continue reading “Why everyone’s got it in for juries. And why they are wrong.”

Preventative Orders And The Law Of Unintended Consequences

You go to court, you fight hard to keep your clients out of gaol or at least to keep the sentence as short as possible. All goes well and then, often almost as an after-thought a keen prosecutor or a zealous judge decides to impose some additional order designed to prevent re-offending; a restraining order perhaps or, as is these days almost de rigeur in sexual cases, despite the wise warning of the Court of Appeal in Smith, a sexual offences prevention order (“SOPO”).

You are a conscientious advocate and you will, of course, scrutinise the terms of the order carefully and make sure that everything is as clear and reasonable as possible. However, what tends to happen in practice is that your client assures you he has no intention of going round to his ex-girlfriend’s flat, or of going to swimming pools with children or whatever the order forbids him from doing. Its terms are readily agreed, or there may be a little desultory argument about some part of it. What very seldom happens is any serious argument about its duration. The attitude all too often seems to be “who cares, I’m not going to breach it so it doesn’t really matter how long it lasts.” Continue reading “Preventative Orders And The Law Of Unintended Consequences”

Paul Weston is a racist but that doesn’t mean he should be prosecuted

Paul Weston, the Euro Election Candidate who was arrested in Winchester over the weekend, is an anti-islamic racist. He is a former member of UKIP (for whom he was a candidate for the City of London at the 2010 general election). He ratted on them to join something called the British Freedom Party and then – emulating his hero Churchill – “re-ratted” to found his own party that he calls Liberty GB.

Since Mary Tudor married Philip II of Spain in 1554 not a great deal has happened in Winchester. The beautiful city where I grew up and where I have either lived or worked for most of my life rarely features much in the national news.

The River Itchen still flows quietly past the ruins of Wolvesey Palace, evensong responses echo through the choir of the cathedral and My Lords the Queens Justices still dispense justice though nowadays they do so in a hideous 1970s “Combined Justice Centre” rather than in the draughty Great Hall of the Castle.

And it may eventually be to that Palais de Justice that Paul Weston is heading if he is prosecuted over last weekend’s anti-Islamic speech from the steps of the City’s Guildhall. Continue reading “Paul Weston is a racist but that doesn’t mean he should be prosecuted”