12 stupid men?

In the UK we had a trail about a woman that took the points her husband received in regards to vehicle offences (bad driving). The case itself is pretty simple. The question put to the jury was simple enough as well. Did she accept the points willingly, and was she culpable. The the that the person involved was publicly well know, and her than husband was also a public figure in politics should be irrelevant. However the jury didn’t seem to get it. It asked silly questions about “should a possibility, that did not form part of anything presented in court be taken into account, or is the jury limited to evidence before it”. “What is reasonable doubt” was another question posed.

The following is an exert from the guardian article published on their website on the 21st of February written by Joshua Rozenberg, a formidable and admired legal journalist (He does the law in action podcast for radio 4 well worth listening too):

So it may be time to consider whether we are right to entrust the most serious criminal cases to the hands of unqualified lay people. Lawyers such as Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC have argued for years that we would be better off if more trials were decided by qualified judges, who would have to give reasons for their decisions.”

“It would be wrong to change our legal system just because one London jury appeared to be utterly at sea. But if we start to fall out of love with juries in the future, this case may be seen as the beginning of the end.”

It should always be worth debating if we can find a better legal system. It should not require triggers, but triggers as these give us the opportunity to debate. I think a couple of conclusions prior to abandoning our current system might be inn order.

1) the legal system worked in this case. No one was sent to prison who was innocent and no one was let go even though they were clearly guilty.

2) the judge might be technically right, but many law students get quizzed to tears about the word “reasonable”, especially in first year.

3) better to ask stupid question and don’t reach a verdict, then reaching a bad verdict based on misunderstanding.

To be clear, I like a lot of what Rozenberg postulates in general, but on this occasion he has done nothing to advocate law or the judicial process. Trying to implicate jurors are too stupid to help execute the law drives our legal system more into a corner in which it will become uncomfortable.

At the heart of the law sits impartiality. White or black? Doesn’t matter to miss justice. She does not judge people on status, class nor profession. She relies on peers judging each other, based on rules and precedents. So maybe the law needs a different kind of make over.

Fewer laws that were established to aid lobbies such as the retail lobby curtailing the freedom of choice of reparation against a poor trade (exchange, refund or repair) in favour of retail convenience.

Modernised language. A comprehensive law reform is required, driving away from precedence to statute in my view, which becomes manageable and understandable.

Fewer wigs, pomp and circumstance. More effective streamlined processing. And it is in this respect that we can maybe incorporate lay judges into the jury? Stupidity is a fact of life. But that will be impactful in any case. I assuming there are judges that are not the brightest spark?

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