Categorized | Case Law, Criminal Justice

Royal Courts’ trial without jury

Royal Courts’ trial without jury

This week John Twomey, for the fourth time, is on trial on charges in connection with a robbery at Heathrow airport in 2004. The particular significance of this trial, involving three other defendents at the Royal Courts of Justice, is that, for the first time in some 400 years, a trial on very serious criminal charges is being held without a jury.

The bungled armed robbery of a Menzies World Cargo warehouse in February 2004, in which the four men are alleged to have taken part, has already given rise to three trials at a cost of over £20 million, which is more than ten times the amount stolen. The third trial collapsed after what the judge called a “serious attempt at jury tampering” and led to the application for a judge-only trial. Last March Mr Justice Calvert-Smith concluded that a package of measures to provide jury protection would be sufficient to reduce the risk to an acceptable level. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Even if such steps were taken, the likelihood of tampering was so substantial, the judges said, as to make it necessary for a trial without a jury. The decision that there should be a judge-only trial was made by the Lord Chief Justice and two other judges in an historic ruling which was the subject of blog ‘Trial without Jury’, posted last November. In summary, they held that the two conditions required by s. 44 Criminal Justice Act 2003 were met:-

“…
(4) The first condition is that there is evidence of a real and present danger that jury tampering would take place.

(5) The second condition is that, notwithstanding any steps (including the provision of police protection) which might reasonably be taken to prevent jury tampering, the likelihood that it would take place would be so substantial as to make it necessary in the interests of justice for the trial to be conducted without a jury.”

Writing in ‘The Times’, Frances Gibb says that a series of special arrangements and procedures have been devised for the trial because of the absence of a jury. The trial is expected to be far shorter and is listed for three months, whereas the last trial to collapse had already run for six months and reached only the end of the prosecution case. “Mr Justice Treacy will be both judge and jury: he will resolve matters of law and have to do ‘mental gymnastics’, as one barrister put it, if he excludes evidence as inadmissable — trying to put it out of his mind and to pretend he has never seen it”. He will have available before him all the witness statements, whereas juries have no such access. The four defendants are expected to be cross-examined in the usual way but barristers are preparing to adapt their style to take account of the absence of a jury. They will be briefer and less painstaking. At the end, the verdict will be pronounced not by a foreman of the jury but by one judge of the High Court.

In his decision last June Lord Judge took into account the cost of protection for jurors, concluding that “it would be unreasonable to impose that package with its drain on financial resources and police manpower”. Writing in the ‘Guardian’, Marcel Berlins expresses his concerns about “money being a factor in a case in which an accused’s liberty is at stake…the suspicion exists that the right to jury trial will, in future, be increasingly affected by the cost of justice and not its content”.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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