Legal profession slates government plans to dump juries

The legal profession last week hit out at government proposals to scrap juries in fraud trials, with practitioners instead blaming case management for the collapse of some high-profile prosecutions.

The Law Society and the Bar Council led the way in slamming the Government after the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith announced plans for judges to try serious fraud cases without a jury.

Individuals also criticised the plans. David Farrer QC, head of chambers at 7 Bedford Row, said some judges were not up to dealing with complex fraud cases. “There are a lot of judges who have had little or no experience as practitioners of conducting trials of this kind,” he said.

Many fraud lawyers argued that recent high-profile collapses, such as the Jubilee Line case, did not constitute a failure of the jury system.

This week’s announcement comes before the report of Crown Prosecution Service inspector Stephen Wooler into the Jubilee Line trial. It is anticipated that the jury will not be blamed for the trial’s collapse.

However, there was some support for the plans. Lawrence Graham corporate investigations head Andrew Witts said: “In my view, the criminal trial of complex fraud cases without juries is worth exploring in certain situations.”