Sunday, 17 January 2010

One person in a powdered wig = 12 citizens good and true?

Currently four people are undergoing trial in London for a bank robbery, the details of which escape me at the moment. There is no doubt that the four defendants are not very pleasant people and there is a long and well-documented history of witness intimidation from their associates. This sort of thing is not uncommon and must be something that the police and judiciary come across time and time again. There is nothing to suggest that the defendants are the most heinous ever to come before the courts. What is unique, in the true sense of the word, is the decision to try these men without a jury. A single judge will decide their guilt or innocence. I described this as unique and it is. It's the first time in some 300-400 years of our legal system that trial by jury has been suspended in this way. I'm not forgetting the Diplock Courts set up in Northern Ireland at the height of the sectarian troubles.

What concerns me is the fact that this can be seen, and I do see it this way, as yet another erosion of our civil liberties. In an earlier post, I mentioned the politisation of freedom of speech. I don't think for one moment that the two topics are in any way related under some grand anti-libertarian conspiracy but I am worried that we seem to accept these erosions so readily. Where is the justice in the opinion of just one person deciding the fate of defendants? Once the precedent is set, it becomes so much easier to do it a second time... and a third.....

And I have not forgotten the plight of those in Haiti. It gets worse and worse.

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