Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Innocent until proven guilty? Not if you're a copper!

According to The Telegraph, senior judges have suggested that policemen should not be allowed to sit on juries as they could jeopardise trials' fairness.

While some senior Crown Court judges welcomed the presence of a juror with expertise in trials, several said it could lead to them basing their verdicts on factors other than the evidence presented to them.

Such an insinuation is scandalous. Why would police officers be any less dispassionate than any other juror? If anything they are likely to give more weight to the evidence than anyone else sitting on the jury.

By that measure we would be better off banning social workers, environmentalists, social scientists and any other member of the "progressive" community who are far more likely to base their decisions on what they "feel" rather than the evidence presented to them.


TheFatBigot said...

This is a tricky one.

As a barrister I know from experience that the way a case is presented says a lot about the defendant. For example, certain lines of questioning will only be adopted when the defendant has a criminal record, certain relevant questions will not be asked if the defendant's lawyers have received particular instructions from their client.

If I were to sit on a jury, as I am entitled to do, I might be able to deduce a lot more about the defendant than the evidence discloses. That might or might not be a bad thing, but it makes me unsuitable to sit on a jury because I cannot guarantee that I would try the case on the evidence. Until a few years ago I was disqualified, as were police officers.

You are right to say that the caring and sharing crowd are probably more likely to acquit, but they will not do so with inside knowledge merely as a result of their prejudices. Similarly other people unversed in the law might be inclined to convict because of their prejudices. In a random jury of 12 the hope is that prejudices will balance out.

The problem with having people involved in the law on a jury is that they can use their experience to look beyond the evidence. It might favour the defence or it might favour the prosecution. My preference is to have juries comprised of people with no inside knowledge.

Stan said...

I take your point - and I do not disagree entirely - but if you follow that then you would have to exclude a whole raft of professions from sitting on juries. Social workers, probation officers, youth offender workers and so on. They all have specialist "knowledge" which is just as likely to prejudice their judgement as a police officers or barristers.