There was a rather strange report by Martin Beckford in this week’s The Mail on Sunday that judges have been told to stop using the phrase “beyond reasonable doubt” in directing juries on the standard of proof required for a conviction:
“… the latest edition of the Crown Court Compendium – written by the Judicial College, which oversees judges’ training – tells members of the bench they can drop the old term completely.
It states that when summing up a trial they must give a ‘clear instruction to the jury that they have to be satisfied so that they are sure before they can convict’.”
The Crown Court Compendium, for those who have not come across it, is an invaluable guide to trial judges. It includes a number of specimen directions, which are often followed by judges, but do not have to be. It is regularly updated, not itself to change the law, but to reflect changes that have been made by statute or by the higher courts. This is the latest guidance on the correct direction to be given on the standard of proof.
Continue reading “The standard of proof in criminal trials: Peter Hitchens is right, and Lord Goddard was wrong.”
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.
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Continue reading “How English Law presumes you guilty, even if your conviction is quashed”
Germaine Greer’s On Rape is roughly the size and thickness of a Beatrix Potter, and why not? The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck may not be the last word on rape, but it says a great deal of what young people need to know: beware of polite, well-dressed gentlemen, especially if they have foxy whiskers and black prick ears. Don’t go uncritically into dismal summer-houses in the woods; and accepting a dinner invitation does not imply consent to everything the polite gentlemen is looking for.
Ms Greer’s book is not as incisive as Miss Potter’s and at £12.99 it is considerably more expensive but that is not to say it is a complete waste of money. In some ways it fizzes along with ideas and raises lots of questions that others are frightened to ask. Why are we so afraid of the penis when a fist and a thumb can do more physical damage? Why do some women fantasise about being raped? Are sentences for rapists too long? Should rapists be compulsorily castrated? That it is less good at answering them is not necessarily a criticism. Indeed, as she says (of her proposal that rape sentences should be shorter) “the mere suggestion will cause an outcry which is one good reason for making it.” Continue reading “Germaine Greer on Rape: A review”