Scuffle of the week

Home Secretary Jack Straw is getting flack from virtually everyone over his plan to axe the right of defendants whose case could be heard in either the magistrates' or Crown Court to choose a jury trial. Straw has done a U-turn since his days in opposition when he said that such a reform would be "wrong, short-sighted and likely to prove ineffective". The Bar Council, Law Society and civil liberties groups say the move will disproportionately affect the poor and members of ethnic minorities, who tend to fare worse before magistrates than before juries.