Well, I have considerable reservations but…where’s my labrador…
Despite having 12 Legal Reform Bills since 1997 I think everyone accepts something has to be done (including civil libertarians/human rights activists) but from that point, it inevitably becomes an issue of justice vs. legal and financial expediency.
The headlines stats say 30,000 trials a year crack before coming to a verdict and that 79% of those tried on Merseyside are acquitted. That’s ugly.
I wonder if much of the context of the current problems and dilemmas is a little lost. The Justice system evolved over hundreds of years, principles long-established, yada, yada…the problem is that the world has changed in the past 30 years or so. People are more suspicious of the police (hate to say it but Merseyside is not exactly police friendly), criminals more switched on…there are so many potential devices by which a ‘reasonable suspicion’ can be raised (leading to acquittal). It’s a game criminals know how to play much better than they once did (It’s a fair cop, Guv).
I actually don’t really see it as a police issue. They investigate and accumulate evidence as best they can but after that, the decision to prosecute (is there the evidence ?) is a matter for the CPS and, then, the Justice system takes over (length to trial, evidential issues, bringing and preparing of witnesses, etc). It’s at the later stages that things break down. To some extent, I actually feel sorry for the police because their work is often thrown away for reasons beyond their control.
I feel pretty torn over the previous convictions rule but , maybe, it should be relaxed a very little. It’s difficult to say how such evidence will influence juries (especially when they’ll be encouraged by the Defence to adjudge on the facts of the case itself). I don’t like it but if it just goes to character…oh, I dunno. It’s damn tricky.
Contrary to the general thrust of this proposal is the ending of the Double Jeopardy rule for serious offences (apparently Murder, Rape and others not yet disclosed (as far as I know)). I don’t like it at all but if DNA evidence is used to overturn Guilty verdicts, I guess it makes sense to some extent …nontheless,.it’s a worry for me. The principle is important because it reduces every decision reached by a jury on a serious offence to that of provisional status.
I suppose judgement without jury is particularly worrisome. But again, the modern inclination towards intimidating witnesses (not just on the bigger crimes but on any council estate near you), etc needs to be addressed somehow. All very unsavoury. At least the Right to Appeal remains so if the Judge did lose their plot at the original trial there is some recourcse.
FWIW, I suppose there is still the Human Rights Act to fall back on - even if it hasn’t yet proved to be very helpful for the non-UK residents currently held indefinitely without charge (and mildly embarrassing that they can choose to go to another country instead and some have chosen France). The Anti-Terrorism legislation is pretty draconian stuff by any standard.
The real world out there is pretty ugly and the Justice System just isn’t awarding stripey suntans to enough ogf the right people. There you go, I had a stab.