Jurors urged to blow whistle on racists

THE LORD Chancellor is being pressed to adopt radical measures by the Society of Black Lawyers to safeguard black defendants from the views of racist jurors.

A report published by the SBL last week called for jurors to complain about any colleagues who expressed racist views.

If the judge refused to take the complaint seriously, investigate or discharge the panel, the juror should apply to be excused, the report says.

The SBL claims the level of prejudice among jurors is so high that the traditional judgement of the “common man” can no longer be trusted.

It plans to draw up guidelines for jurors to help identify and combat racism and has called for a meeting with the Lord Chancellor.

The report, written by Peter Herbert, barrister and former SBL chair, has already been submitted to Lord Mackay, as well as the Lord Chief Justice and Sir Henry Brookes, chair of the Law Commission.

Herbert said the “common man” was “more likely, in 1995, to hold to the common prejudice, which, combined with the power to decide the facts of a case, is likely to result in a racially biased outcome”.

The report cites the case of David Gregory, a black defendant who took his case to the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg earlier this year, alleging that he was denied a fair hearing.

During his trial for robbery in Manchester four years ago, a note was passed to the judge alleging “racial overtones” among jury members, the report says.

The judge did not investigate but warned the panel against prejudice of “any sort”.

The report claims that in another case, three Asian defendants at Birmingham Crown Court were subject to racist remarks and jokes by jurors.

A spokesman for the LCD said the report had been received and Lord Mackay would decide whether to meet the SBL later.