Judges divided over juryless trials

Judges divided over juryless trials

Judges have re-affirmed their concerns over juryless trials in a response to the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill.

Senators of the College of Justice gave a divided response to the Criminal Justice Committee on introducing juryless trials in plans for a pilot scheme that has attracted significant controversy in recent years.

The response from the judges who oppose juryless trials, which repeats points made in August 2022, states: “The pilot scheme amounts to a court set up by the government with a limited life span, and subject to examination and review by the government. That may not be an independent tribunal.

“It may not comply with the requirements of ECHR article six. It may not be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament under section 29(2) of The Scotland Act 1998. Further, the combination of such a court with judges who have no security of tenure in that court may not satisfy the requirements of a fair trial.”

The response adds: “The majority of judges are in late middle age, male, from a white Scottish ethnic background and are educated to university level.

“Many would argue that a number of people from differing backgrounds and ages combining to reach a decision is preferable to one person deciding alone.”

The bill would also abolish the ‘not proven’ verdict and reduce the size of juries from 15 to 12.

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