A Threat To Justice

Bringing trials without juries in Scotland’s High Court rape cases is a move to the fascist right. To even entertain the change is deeply troubling. How did this come about? Almost as soon as a jury exonerated the Right Honorable Alex Salmond MP from fabricated crimes devised to assassinate his character, freed by a jury dominated by a majority of women members, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon called together a committee to look into the idea of removing juries in rape trials, and to investigate ways to supplant juries with judges.

To add to the shock of the move, the chair of the committee was taken up by Lady Dorrian, who, it is said, made the suggestion. She was the judge in the Salmond case, arguably the last person in the judicial system who ought to preside over such an enquiry because of her role associated with the Salmond case, and in particular, the complainants, the women given anonymity in the case, in addition to witnesses for the defence.

The new Lord Advocate has given the nod to the idea of radical change, as has the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), an institution assuredly discredited in the eyes of many who watched the Salmond case blocked from discussing critical evidence on a daily basis.

Once more, the SNP involves itself in a diversionary and controversial policy a million miles away from securing independence. One is left wondering if the SNP is a party keen to commit suicide at the hands of an angry electorate.

Together with banning assembly around our Parliament building – thus turning it into a citidel for the power elite – and other anti-democratic outrages, this is another step to the political right taken by an increasingly self-protective and vindictive Scottish National Party. It no longer trusts the people. The cry of ‘SNP is a Tory party’ gets harder to refute by the day.

Who is to say a judge, two or three, hold the sum of all wisdom in these matters? It was not so long ago some judges could suggest a harmed woman was ‘asking for it’ because she attended a social event in a skirt too short ‘to be sensible’. Juries provide a counterbalance to official power and the establishment, the power elite who can manipulate events to suit their interests. That is what happened in the Salmond case.

There is a myth that Norway did away with juries. Large numbers of jurists were dropped a few years ago. For normal cases the courts recruit a pool of ordinary folk to train as ‘lay jurers’. They are expected to accept the role about twice a year. Usually three serve on a case together with two professional judges. (An individual can be rejected if too close to the accused or defendant.) The idea behind participation is independent lay people “should use common sense and good judgement to determine questions of guilt or innocence”. In other words, they are a jury as we in Scotland know it only fewer in number, and better informed of judicial practice and process. They serve for a number of years before being replaced. An acceptable system for a small nation with a small population of elders. If a case goes to appeal in a crime attracting a sentence of more than 5 or 6 years, jury numbers are increased, usually consisting of five men and five women.

And in Scotland, where men are free to self-identify as women, then what?

Judgement by your peers is a cornerstone of Scotland’s democratic law. Removing juries in specific classes of case is sinister. The Faculty of Advocates has registered its resistance to this extreme change in procedure.

Former Justice Minister, Kenny MacAskill, is as concerned as any person profoundly alarmed at the strong-arm methods of a party to which he once belonged and served.

JURY-LESS TRIALS ARE NOT THE ANSWER

By Kenny MacAskill

There’s certainly good arguments to be made for it. I’ve also been sympathetic to the concept of community justice where the decision on punishment for minor infractions should be localised. I’ve always found communities to be far less retributive than people think. It would also allow for far greater consideration to given to the effect of both the deed and any action in atonement on the people who’ve suffered most.

But the reality is that other than for serious offences our current system would grind to a halt and the costs would become astronomical. Accordingly, Juries are reserved for more serious cases. Other factors also apply though thankfully not currently in Scotland. Security for example meant that terrorist trials in Northern Ireland required to be before a Judge alone. The threat to life for Jury members never just the danger to justice from intimidation made it thus.

South of the border some serious organised crime trials can be tried without a jury. That isn’t replicated here. I recall discussing with a former Lord Advocate whether such a position should apply here. I was more concerned about complicated fraud where a jury member might almost lose the will to live during the weeks it might last, never mind join the Judge in being perplexed if not baffled by the sophistication of it. But the Crown view was a Jury could manage and such a measure would be counterproductive.

But now there seems to be a push both by the Scottish Government and the Crown towards jury-less trials in rape and serious sexual offences. Lady Dorrian our second most senior Judge has suggested it. The former Justice Secretary supported her and the current Lord Advocate has genuflected towards it.

There is of course a serious issue with delays mounting and conviction rates plummeting. But for me this isn’t the solution to a serious issue in an area of criminal justice but a threat to it in its entirety. After all this is an administration that is becoming increasingly more authoritarian and which has failed to address the dual role of the Lord Advocate or move with any alacrity to answer justifiable concerns over malicious prosecutions.

There are also other steps that can and should be taken. Lord Bonomy’s recommendations on safeguards to follow the routine removal of the need for corroboration have been allowed to gather dust. Yet, it’s the need for corroboration in crimes where it rarely occurs that’s the real problem.

Rolling out technology and especially Body Cameras for police is another action that’s overdue. Play the tape of the interview taken at the time of the reporting or interview, not ask some one to recall years later or be given time to smarten up and prepare.

Is this warming us up for it to be brought in, because it sure looks like it? The current Justice Secretary has a duty to tell us what’s planned.

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12 Responses to A Threat To Justice

  1. duncanio says:

    This is looking like a government – colonial administration, that is – drunk on power with totalitarian outlook and behaviour.

    Human rights for accusers but not the accused. Similarly transgender folk and women, respectively.

    If we ever recover our statehood – unlikely under this lot I grant you – our very first objective as electors should be to ensure that the current crowd of bully boys and girls are removed from office forthwith.

  2. Fearghas MacFhionnlaigh says:

    Trial to death – Alice in Wonderland – Nonsensical Poems —

  3. Jan Cowan says:

    Sturgeon has managed to surround herself with lying, evil people. I had no idea we harboured so many distasteful creatures in Scotland. Disheartening but makes us all the more determined to clear the decks.

  4. Grouse Beater says:

    By encouraging youth to accept Stonewall’s profoundly flawed and suspect ideology, she has inculcated them into thinking the only way to uphold Stonewall’s values is by showing absolute loyalty to the SNP and rejection of honest dissent. This cannot be classed as good democracy at work.

  5. Robert McAllan says:

    Aye Gareth removing juries IS sinister all the more so when when witnesses for the prosecution in maliciously brought rape trials can openly and brazenly commit perjury yet escape sanction from the presiding judge of that court.

    You suggest the self-protecting and vindictive Scottish National Party no longer trusts the people, I would venture that they might well be frightened of the people and of their reactions when the penny finally drops. That I believe is why the barricades denying democratic principle are now being constructed in favour of the current clique and their facilitators.

    Truth as a moral concept has been jettisoned to protect the corrupt and complicit perching on the raft of shame that has become our Scottish Government. Ne’er forget, sinister is as sinister does!

  6. twathater says:

    I am looking forward to the day the general public have had enough of these dictatorial moronic incompetents who are more interested in putting sanitory towels in men’s toilets , ignoring blatant perjury , inventing situations in an attempt to justify jailing certain journalists whilst ignoring other journalists for THEIR deliberate infractions of the law , inventing spurious reasons of health considerations to concoct a perverts survey into our childrens sex lives asking them about Anal Sex , Oral Sex , Vaginal Sex in a questionnaire that is illegally identifying the respondents , all in their interest to sate a pervert and deviant desire to ROB our children of their innocence
    When that day comes the perverts and deviants in charge will be brought to justice

  7. benmadigan says:

    In the 1970s Lord Diplock introduced into Northern Ireland single judge, juryless trials (Diplock Courts), whch persist to this day. No objections were raised by the then NI legal establishment.
    The difficulty Westminster was facing was insurgency which it was determined to quell by fair means or foul (dirty war)

    Now FM Sturgeon is proposing the same type of thing
    The difficulty FM Sturgeon is facing is her defeat by Mr Salmon on rape charges and her determination to push through her sex/gender-based ideology, by fair means or foul.
    A by-product, which Westminster likes, is quelling the Scottish insurgency (Independence movement)

    This post will answer all your questions about Diplock Courts

    https://wordpress.com/posts/eurofree3.wordpress.com?s=Diplock+Courts

  8. tombkane says:

    The Scottish Government has unlawfully used it’s authority in the pursuit of a political rival to the first minister, ordered a contrived charge to be executed against an innocent man using testimony of close associates of the FM and still have not made reparations to the man or admitted the full scope of the maladministration.

    They have no safe moral authority to make it easier to simplify the process of putting an accused person into jail and have themselves used every dirty trick in the redaction, memory-loss, didn’t take any notes of the meeting, did I say that what I meant to say was, can I just not turn up, or can we just see how annoyed I am and not bother with the evidence playbook.

    Our legal profession should be pursuing the negligence and waywardness of the partnership between government politics and prosecution services … Not rubber-stamping anti-democratic, anti-social judicial processes.

  9. alfbaird says:

    tombkane

    It is a colonial system we are dealing with, in which state institutions including the Scottish Government – the latter still a UK spending ‘department’ – exist primarily to protect the interests of the colonial power, not the oppressed. You will have to search far and wide for any human values in such a system.

    Here we might remember that “the colonial regime owes its legitimacy to force and at no time tries to hide this aspect of things”, and also that: “almost all the men who called on the people to join in the (independence) struggle were condemned….or searched for by the.. police” (Fanon). Hence the hounding of independence campaigners merely being part of the game.

    George Osborne rather let the cat out of the bag earlier this year when he mentioned that Scotland is ‘held by the arms of the British state’ by which he meant 2 key entities: Crown (i.e. COPFS, Police) and Civil Service’. As Craig Murray and others have suggested, these ‘arms’ also have close connections to the security services, as would be expected.

    Soon will come the shocking realisation, perhaps even in a lightbulb moment for Scotland’s daeless nationalist politicians, that national independence and decolonization are one and the same thing. Ireland and now Wales’ nationalist leadership both understand this, Scotland’s political elites are juist a wee bittie slaw tae get thay’re ack thegither, assuming they ever do.

    As for ‘our legal profession’, A widna haud ma braith; much of their status and privileges are enshrined in the articles of the very treaty that still enslaves us Scots, with proportionately the largest prison population in Western Europe being another illustration of how working class ethnic Scots (speakers) are treated in a colonial justice system.

  10. tombkane says:

    I know, Alf, I don’t think you are wrong. I am just aware of a thrawness in the Presbyterian character of Scots – and I say that as someone brought up Catholic – I don’t see these chancers getting away with it for much longer.

    I just don’t.

    Respect. And Merry X

  11. diabloandco says:

    It seems that any finger pointer shouting rape will be judged innocent and given anonymity in perpetuity while those in the dock will automatically be judged guilty .
    I wonder how someone reaches the conclusion that the public are ‘not suited ‘ to decide on rape cases , will it be murder cases next? Personally I think there are some in the judiciary who are ‘not suited ‘ to the task.

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