Black lawyers condemn proposed jury cuts

The Bar Council and the Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) have condemned Home Office plans to cut the right to choose trial by jury as discriminating against black defendants.

In a joint statement issued last week, the two organisations warned that restricting the right to trial by jury would have a serious impact on black people who, they say, do not have confidence in magistrates to give them a fair trial and opt for trial by jury significantly more often than their white counterparts.

Courtney Griffiths QC of the SBL said: "The evidence is that black defendants see magistrates' courts as police courts. A fair hearing from a randomly selected panel of jurors greatly enhances the confidence that minority communities have in the justice system."

Griffiths said research by the Runnymede Trust showed that 45 per cent of Afro-Caribbean defendants chose trial by jury, compared with 30 per cent of whites and Asians.