Friday, 4 May 2007

Straight from the horse's mouth

Unusually, I didn't read the paper until yesterday evening so missed the story about the Michael Symes, a juror on the terrorism trial. I've often wondered how jurors cope with being on long trials both in terms of the inevitable disruption of their normal lives and the strange experience of being thrown together with eleven other random people for weeks or months. Ever since lawyers became eligible for jury service, I've always had a hankering to be summonsed. I'm yet to be convinced that having lawyers and judges on juries is an entirely good idea but I'd love a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what goes on in jury rooms.

The closest I'd previously come to this was when a friend's mum was called for jury service a couple of years ago. She told me that they'd found the defendant not guilty as they were only about 80% sure of his guilt, which was reassuring as it showed they'd actually listened to directions about the standard of proof. More alarming was that she and her fellow jurors had agreed that the defence barrister was pompous and had an annoying voice and that the prosecution barrister had tried too hard to suck up to the jury in her speech. Food for thought...

Despite the worrying reports of jurors pulling sickies and generally dragging proceedings out whenever possible, it seems that the terrorism trial jurors took their responsibilities seriously and, broadly speaking, the article reaffirmed my faith in the jury system. Interestingly, Mr Symes was glad not to have been told of the links between the defendants in his case and the July 7th bombers, saying that it was "probably best to be objective in evidence". When the law changed on adducing defendants' (and others') bad character many criminal lawyers were worried that this objectivity would be lost, so it was nice to see that in this case the right decision seemed to have been taken.

I wasn't sure what to make of his desire to be a full-time juror though - what's the betting he applies to be a magistrate in the not too distant future?


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