What are we supposed to believe in the great debate on juries in serious fraud trials?
Defence lawyers say juries are perfectly capable of deciding what is theft and what is not. Fraud prosecutors such as Rosalind Wright and some of the experts they employ, KPMG forensic accountants for example, claim that fraud trials are simply too complicated for juries.
They are also of the opinion that the argument which says that the public should be tried by its peers “tends to be put forward by defence lawyers rather than members of the public”.
This is true, but members of the public are not putting forward arguments against juries either.
The truth is there is no evidence one way or the other because section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act prevents anyone, even neutral academics, asking jurors anything about their deliberations and the way in which they reach a verdict.
The Attorney General, John Morris QC, is thinking about lifting this ban on questioning jurors, at least for academic research, and should be encouraged to do so.
Meanwhile The Lawyer has a suggestion. The concept that everyone should be tried by their peers is a good and just one. In everyday society, we all know the codes of basic honesty and decency and we all recognise when someone has broken them.
But the City tends to build its own, more complicated standards and yardsticks on top of the basic commandments. When, for example, does taking money from a pension fund and putting it into the company accounts constitute theft and when is it a perfectly valid procedure?
The City dealer's peers are not Mr and Mrs Random from the electoral roll. They are the people who work in the City. So for serious fraud trials why not choose a jury from the electoral roll of the City Corporation?
These people are City landlords, lawyers, accountants and other professionals who are well aware of the standards and norms of City practices and should be quick to realise when a defendant has slipped below those standards.
They are considered re-sponsible enough to choose the people who administer the Square Mile. So why should they not also be made aware of their responsibilities by being made to sit on long, boring fraud trials?
Their employers, the City institutions, can have no excuse from preventing them from sitting on juries. Surely they want to ensure that the City's reputation is beyond reproach? This suggestion has the double advantage of giving the medieval Corporation a new purpose just as some of its ancient dignity and powers are due to be taken away by London's first elected mayor.