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I worry that this seismic change to our constitution is not being given the attention it urgently warrants. So I'll say again:

The government wants to abolish jury trials in order to address a court backlog caused by its own cuts, under the pretence that it was caused by Covid.
Pre-Covid, there was a backlog of 39,000 cases in the Crown Court. The govt was content with this appalling state of affairs; happy to make defendants, victims & witnesses wait years for justice.

Covid has pushed the backlog to 41,000. This, apparently, demands urgent action.
41,000 cases is unacceptable. It requires urgent action. But that action is not tearing up the right to jury trial, and replacing it with trial by a single judge and two magistrates.

Action means resourcing the system properly, re-opening courts, sourcing alternative venues.
While the backlog, and the delay, has been increasing over recent years - due, I'll say it again, to political decisions to remove funding from the courts - it is not the greatest ever.

In 2014, there was a backlog of over 50,000 cases. Nobody suggested removing jury trial.
Recent days have seen senior and retired judges speaking out, saying what a smashing idea it would be to replace juries in certain cases with trial by a judge, just like them, and two magistrates, just like their friends.

It would be a disaster. Make no mistake.
This brilliant thread by @Joanna__Hardy illustrates the problem with representation in the judiciary.
Readers of my book will know from Chapter 2 the problems with our magistrates' courts, and the way we appoint and train magistrates. The senior judiciary, sadly, are wholly unaware. They have not appeared in a magistrates' court for decades. They do not see what we see.
These wise judicial heads will be rolled out by the government over coming weeks to show how sensible and moderate and not-at-all-worrying it would be to replace juries with judges and magistrates.

With respect, they do not speak with knowledge or authority on this subject.
Please do not be distracted or conned.

The government has had since March to identify 'Nightingale' courts to make jury trial workable. It has done nothing. It has sat on its hands, letting the backlog grow.

Now it will say that there is no choice but to replace juries.

So, for those at the back:

🔴The court backlog was caused by govt cuts, not Covid
🔴We had a bigger backlog in 2014 and nobody suggested abolishing juries
🔴Any decision to replace juries with judges & magistrates would be in the interests of government, not justice.
P.S. To deal with those hijacking this conversation for other agendas, this is not saying that juries are perfect and the system cannot be improved. They are not, and I think it definitely can.

But the government is not promising to improve justice - just to make it cheaper.
Whatever the arguments for and against jury trial, it is beyond dispute that trial by a single judge and two magistrates is a lesser form of justice. It is that specific proposal that this thread aims to address.
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