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Legal groups have this morning roundly condemned government proposals to scrap juries in fraud trials.
The Law Society, Bar Council and the human rights organisation Justice have all criticised the government after the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, announced plans for judges to try serious fraud cases without a jury.
The proposal is to implement section 43 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which allows a judge to conduct a complex fraud trial without a jury when he is satisfied that the length or complexity of the case would make it too burdensome on the jurors.
If the proposal is passed by Parliament, it will be implemented in January 2006. The government says it will lessen the chances of cases like the Jubilee Line fraud trial from collapsing without a verdict.
But the Law Society called the plans "an overzealous swipe at our justice system". The Bar Council chair Guy Mansfield QC said that "public confidence in juries is consistently high".
Justice director Roger Smith recommended that the Attorney General should concentrate on improving prosecutions rather than removing juries.