Letter: Juryless trials create perverse incentives

Letter: Juryless trials create perverse incentives

Dear Editor,

I agree entirely with the comments made by Frances McMenamin KC regarding juryless trials. She has long experience of the courts and because of that she speaks with authority and her observations should not be ignored. In response to her, a Scottish government spokesperson is reported as having said: “As part of its vision for justice, the Scottish government wants to strengthen the rights and improve the experiences of people involved in the justice system, especially women and children.”

One could be forgiven for asking how that bland statement relates in any way to the points made by Ms McMenamin.

A point worth considering in this, which, so far as I can see, has not been made previously, is whether any judge would be willing to devote himself, or herself, full-time to dealing with only two types of case.

There is a real risk that those who see the aim as being to secure more convictions will put pressure on judges to convict. This would not take the form of a telephone call, but perhaps a none too subtle comment about the prospects of promotion if the judge did not return what the government would see as an appropriate number of convictions.

The aim of the Crown, in any criminal case, should be to lay before the court evidence which appears to be both credible and reliable in the hope of securing a conviction. If the primary focus is on conviction, it is all too easy to avoid a proper scrutiny of the evidence before proceeding.

Douglas Cusine

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