If we carry on tinkering with the criminal justice system, the Eurovision song contest will be the only place you’ll see a jury by the end of the decade, said the Labour MP Vera Baird this week.
Hyperbole this may have been, but it was a lot closer to reality than David Blunkett’s bland assurance that jury trial would be abolished in “somewhat fewer than 100 cases a year”.
That was because the Home Secretary was referring only to plans to scrap juries in complex or lengthy commercial cases and where there was a danger of jury tampering. Mrs Baird, a QC, was referring to an entirely separate clause that would let defendants insist on trial by judge alone.
That deceptively benign proposal was first identified as a risk to justice on this page last July. It allows defendants the dubious right to opt for trial without a jury – unless there are “exceptional circumstances” or a co-defendant objects.