Big six firm KPMG has called for the scrapping of juries in serious fraud trials and said that arguments for retaining them could be put “forward by defence lawyers rather than members of the public”.
The Home Office is currently undertaking a consultation exercise on whether juries should be retained for fraud trials.
John Ellison, chairman of KPMG's forensic accounting arm, said in a letter to the Home Office: “We do not believe the arguments for retaining juries are compelling. The alleged fear by the public of not being able to be tried by one's peers is, in our view, overstated.”
Ellison favours a tribunal of a judge and two professional lay members.
Burton Copeland senior partner Ian Burton and Kingsley Napley senior partner John Clitheroe defended the jury system. Burton said: “The only time there are complaints is when someone is let off. It is outrageous arrogance for some politicians and civil servants to think people can't understand because they dare to acquit.”
He added that the issue for juries was very simple: “Is the defendant dishonest or not?”
Clitheroe said juries should be retained and claimed that there was no evidence that juries did not understand the complexities of such cases.
KPMG's reply to the Home Office pointed, among other reasons, to the length of time and expense of fraud trials and the fact that the system had been brought into disrepute.