Thursday, 21st February 2013
JUDGE FURIOUS THAT JURY DID NOT HAVE A CLUE REGARDING THE EVIDENCE – No doubt, if you have read any newspapers of late, you would have knowledge of the case of Vicky Pryce and whether she attempted to pervert the course of justice by taking MP Chris Huhne’s penalty points, in order to save him from being banned from driving.
Mr Justice Sweeney, the presiding judge was in shock at the ignorance that the jury displayed in having little or no comprehension of the evidence presented to them and raised the question if the jury selection process should include an IQ Test.
It was Mr Justice Sweeney’s decision, considering the jury’s failing to come up with a verdict and the fact that they presented a list of ten questions, which led him to believe that the jury could not, or would not, be able to reach a verdict and therefore dismissed the jury in full.
Words can be a tricky thing in a court of law and in fact the choice of words always determines the outcome of a court case but in this instance the judge told the jury that the words were written in plain English and that an interpretation of the words could not be any clearer.
It is obvious, when sitting in most cases, that a jury has little or no understanding of criminal law, however that’s exactly how it is meant to be. The idea of the jury is to find a group of lay persons, who are unable to determine the precise meaning of the law so that they come up with an answer that a lay person can understand. This is known as the ‘officious bystander test’ however, this is not what is in question but rather that the jury had no real comprehension of the basic meanings of English words.
Why do we have a jury system of untrained people? This idea is that ‘common law’ is for ‘common man’ and it should be the common man who interprets the meaning of words in order to provide a verdict – again the officious bystander test over this.
The jury system has served us well and dates back to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and since this time all criminal cases have been tried under a jury system. The idea of a jury system and indeed the public gallery in open court is so that “Justice must not only be done, but it must be seen to be done.”
Successive Governments, in the UK, have fought, from time to time, to have the jury system removed but this has been vigorously defended by both the Judiciary and the public. It is unlikely the system is going to change, but should jurors undergo a basic IQ Test to determine if they can at least comprehend the written English word?
The real issues our courts, judges and jurors face, is the ever growing complexities of law and yet these complexities are not, and should not be, a concern for the jurors, but be left to the realm of the barristers and judges, but surely we should have a jury panel that can at least understand what is being presented to them, both in the written and verbal context.
Once issue that is clear is that of a growing population whereby many are immigrants, who most often than not cannot grasp the fundamentals of the English language. As this problem continues to grow I suspect the frustration of our Judges will continue in the same direction.
In my view, it is time, if the British public want to keep the jury system alive, to introduce an IQ Test to ensure that any person sitting in the Jury Box has a clear comprehension of what is being said.