Law Soc slams proposals for trial-without-jury in EU fraud

Plans to introduce a special prosecutor and trial-without-jury for alleged fraud in the European Union have been branded unworkable by the Law Society.

A damning Law Society report is due to be submitted to a House of Lords sub-committee looking into the European Commission proposals, known as corpus juris.

Kingsley Napley partner Christopher Murray, who wrote the report, says: “The scale of fraud in the EU is mammoth. It amounts to billions. That is what this is all about – the commission is trying to face up to it.”

But Murray, who is a member of the Law Society criminal committee that discussed the plans last week, continues: “The commission is trying to combine what it perceives to be the best bits of the inquisitorial system with the best bits of the accusatorial systems. I query whether it will work.”

The commission wants to introduce a central European public prosecutor with special powers to clamp down on fraud. Proposed powers include the authority to order phone-tapping, while court cases would be heard before a panel of judges with no juries.

Murray says: “It has substantial civil liberties implications. The commission is trying to impose an international solution on the national system, and I don't think it is going to work.

“The machinery is there, and we can deal with it. This presupposes our system cannot deal with EU fraud – I would say it can.”