Law Society slams Govt plans to scrap fraud juries

The Law Society has made its strongest attack yet on plans to scrap juries in fraud trials, saying that the Government “must be stopped”.

The call this morning (19 March) comes just a day before The Fraud (Trials without a Jury) Bill goes before the House of Lords.

The bill scraped through the House of Commons by just 35 votes last November.

Peers will tomorrow vote on an amendment tabled by Lord Kingsland which, if carried, would prevent the bill from becoming law in the current parliamentary session.

Initially the Government hoped the bill would take effect from 1 January 2006. However, opposition has been so fierce that this is now the third attempt by the Government to remove juries in serious fraud trials.

The Law Society believes that trial by jury is a fundamental right and an essential safeguard for the rule of law.

Law Society president Fiona Woolf said trial by jury was a fundamental right and an essential safeguard for the rule of law, with juries providing a barrier against oppressive and politically motivated prosecutions.

Woolf insisted that the removal of juries from fraud cases would not solve the problem of long and costly trials.

Woolf said: “Juries are not to blame for lengthy trials. Better case management is required and the criminal procedure rules and protocols from complex cases introduced by Lord Woolf must be given an opportunity to work before any decision is taken to abolish juries.”