At the behest of Nicola Sturgeon, High Court judge Lady Leona Dorrian is chairing a committee to look in detail at the efficacy or otherwise of retaining juries in rape cases, her brief to weigh the pros and cons of change, and to investigate alternative models of jurisprudence. (I am tempted to title the enquiry the Dorrian Adventure, though spelling is different.)
What troubles observers is both Nicola Sturgeon and Lady Dorrian are motivated, the latter by accepting the commission, by the outcome of the Salmond trial; they share the belief that the women complainers in the trial were honest but cheated by the jury system.
Readers will recall Lady Dorrian presided over the Alex Salmond case where there was a jury that exonerated him, and then the linked case of human rights activist Craig Murray, where there was no jury and he was jailed for eight months. Indeed, Lady Dorrian refused his request to be given a jury trial.
One has to begin thinking about all this knowing that woman are as capable of being bribed and lying as men, and the most predatory and vindictive can destroy a man’s career and reputation. There has to be fairness and protection for both sides, the accused receive anonymity like the woman under Scots Law, a veil lost if proven guilty and sentenced.
In this regard, one is tempted to add women proven to be liars should also lose their anonymity. But that is only my view. I believe absolutely in being judged by one’s peers. I acknowledge that system can come unstuck, misled so easily in cases where a jury are hoodwinked by false statements and allegations and faux sincerity, but the job of illuminating unreliable testimony belongs to defending and prosecution lawyers to discover by fair and penetrating questioning of the accused and of witnesses.
The person best able to discuss this side of the issue is the distinguished Scottish QC Roddy Dunlop, who confirms “the Faculty of Advocates shares the concerns at proposals to remove jury trials, either for particular types of case or to get through the backlog. The right to trial by jury is fundamental and should not lightly be removed”.
I should add, I was a jurist on a Not Proven rape case some months ago. In my experience, juries are a critical and staple foundation of a democratic system that advocates the principle an accused person is ‘innocent until proven guilty’. I would be profoundly unhappy to see a panel of judges on a case, sexual and gender prejudices and preferences unknown.
Judge-only trials raise a lot of questions. What happens if the accused is known to the judges? Are they to be excused, a non-specialist appointed? What is to be the minimum number? Should they be an equal number of male and female judges? Knowing the SNP’s proclivity for interfering in the sex lives of citizens, should there be all sorts of ‘genders’ represented on the panel? If the rape is homosexual, should the judges be homosexual, heterosexual or a mixure of all preferences? What about judges who are bi-sexual or asexual?
Will judges have to register their sexual orientation, their in-bed peccadilloes, including an enjoyment for sado-masochism? One can spot a mile off unacceptable complications to a system of corralling rape trials to judges only. The riposte to this line is, of course, what I argue can be applied to a jury – well yes, but since when was a judge one of my peers, the woman from the bakery, the joiner from the local construction company? And will judges’ names be chosen out of a fish bowl as in the case of a group of forty individuals for a jury?
IT SEEMS INCONCEIVABLE
by Iain Lawson
This at the same time as there is a group of rogue woman throwing about smear and innuendo like confetti against political opponents. These woman enjoy a special status of anonymity that protects their identity while no such protection exists for their intended victims.
We have just witnessed Craig Murray’s release after he was convicted in a Scottish Court by a judge. A trial where he was not permitted to know exactly what he had done, where he was not permitted to lodge his defence or appeal against the judgement. He spent months in jail on the whim of a judge, his crime only known in the mind of the judge. The first person in the World to be convicted of ”jigsaw identification”.
Operating on new rules, created by who other than the judge herself, who determined that journalists like Craig and bloggers like myself should be judged on stricter unwritten rules than journalists working for the giant newspaper corporations. Who decided that was fair? Where does that legislation exist? Why should freedom of speech be graded in this way? In my view he would NEVER have been convicted by any jury in Scotland. I am sure the EHRC will correct the wrong and again the Scottish “Justice” system will be the subject of condemnation and ridicule.
Will it surprise you to learn that Lady Dorian, the judge concerned is a leading advocate of jury free trials for sexual offences? Looking at her handling of both the Alex Salmond trial where she ruled out the defence lodging WhatsApp messages that clearly demonstrated Alex Salmond was the victim of an organised, malicious plot, involving many of the prosecution witnesses, and also her conviction of Craig Murray in a concocted evidenced trial that will remain a permanent stain on Scotland’s Justice System, adding Scotland to the list of renegade nations that jails political prisoners. We need to be very wary of this Lady.
We are told the reason for getting rid of jury trials is that the conviction rates are not “high” enough. To me that is the most dangerous warning sign that this is very, very wrong and DANGEROUS!
Do we want Justice being determined by a judge anxious to keep their quota of guilty verdicts up? If you want more convictions invest in better trained police and medical personnel, improve the quality and depth of the prosecution evidence, improve the confidence levels of the “victim” of the crime but finding more people guilty, just because the politicians want a higher level of successful prosecutions is very dangerous…and another step along the road to fascism. We need the safety valve of a jury to stop the State interfering in trials to create the right POLITICAL outcome.
They say timing is everything. At the current time, with the legal system the subject of widespread criticism and distrust, as Scotland’s Government seems to have completely lost any moral compass it might have once have possessed, it can be absolutely guaranteed that any move to hand judgements in cases of a sexual nature solely to a judge with no involvement of a jury of our peers, will be opposed in the most energetic manner.
I hope for and expect much more from the leading figures in Scotland amongst our legal fraternity in opposing any suggestion of moving in this deeply flawed direction. These are offences that can result in lengthy jail time. We have witnessed, very recently a very clear example of where an innocent man, was singled out and the subject of blatant trivial, malicious false accusation. We know in Scotland we have a rogue band of anonymous women only to happy to mount false and malicious allegations as a political tool to intimidate political rivals.
If ever there was a country that needed the protection of independent juries to separate and regulate the power of the judges and politicians it is Scotland in the 21st Century.. How shameful is that?
NOTE: Iain Lawson writes for the Yours For Scotland blog site