How English Law presumes you guilty, even if your conviction is quashed

When summing up any case to a jury, one of the first things a judge has to explain is that although it is for the jury to decide the facts of the case, they must follow the judge’s directions of law. A favourite cliché of many is then to say “if I am wrong on the law a higher court will put it right.”

Phew,” the jurors are meant to think, “we can trust that even if this old fool has got the law wrong, no harm will come of it because that ‘higher court’ will make everything right again.”

Victor Nealon and Sam Hallam learnt last week from the Supreme Court what they must have guessed already: the promise that a higher court will put wrongful convictions right is hollow. And although there is statutory provision for the state to atone with compensation for subjecting innocent people to wrongful convictions and imprisonment, it is worded in such a way that compensation can virtually never be paid. It is a bogus, Potemkin provision of no practical effect.

*** *** ***
Continue reading “How English Law presumes you guilty, even if your conviction is quashed”

Docks are nasty relics of eighteenth century injustice. It is time to dismantle them

We have abolished the gallows, the gibbets and the pillories that once adorned every rutted turnpike cross-road.

GibbetIt’s now time to turn our attention to another eighteenth century legal relic. No, not the harmless wig, but the pernicious practice of forcing defendants to stand trial while caged inside the wooden and glass cages known as “docks.”

 

The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, seems to think so too.

In a speech last week to Birkbeck College’s Institute for Criminal Policy Research Lord Thomas suggested that docks could be abolished:

Do you really need the dock? Are they really necessary? I do think these sort of radical ideas need considering …. They are terribly expensive. Particularly in magistrates’ courts.” Continue reading “Docks are nasty relics of eighteenth century injustice. It is time to dismantle them”