Justice slams Govt’s plan to scrap fraud trials by jury

Justice, the law campaigner regarded as ‘the conscience of the legal profession’, is briefing House of Lords peers to ensure the upper chamber scuppers Government proposals to try serious fraud without a jury.

The news comes as the House of Commons passed the third reading of the Fraud (Trials Without a Jury) Bill by 281 votes to 246.

Lord Goodhart, the newly elected chair of the Council of Justice, said his organisation staunchly believes that the right to trial by jury is a bedrock of the criminal justice system.

“The great majority of our council and executive see juries as capable of making decisions, even in complex cases,” said Goodhart. “We, however, also understand that there are exceptional circumstances, such as Northern Ireland, where strong feelings of sectarianism, bias and possible intimidation makes a jury unworkable, but these situations are rare.”

In a push to guarantee jury trial is enshrined in UK law, Goodhart explained that Justice, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, will be publishing a report recommending that the Government passes a Bill of Rights that goes beyond the European Convention on Human Rights to secure the right to trial by jury.