The changes being introduced under the British Home Secretary’s Criminal Justice Bill threaten one of the pillars of the British legal system.

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.

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