Saturday, 16 January 2010

Magna What?

This is not directly related to the South West England area but I feel that it is such an important story that has not been given enough attention by the media (thanks for that, Haiti) that I consider it my duty to inform. The gist of this story is that two individuals are to be tried without a jury for the first time in England and Wales for more than 350 years. The reason for this is that previous trials involving these two citizens, who supposedly stole a large sum of money from a cash depot, were interrupted as the jury were intimidated by outside forces.

So the jury are in danger every time this trial is resumed. Fair enough, but why must we take such extreme measures just to ensure security when there are plenty of other methods available that do not interfere with the rights of the accused? Keeping the jury anonymous or under guard would be excellent courses of action, in my opinion. Unfortunately, the courts do not share this view. Have they forgotten about a little thing in the Magna Carta? It states that no freeman taken, or imprisoned or in any other way destroyed, except for the lawful judgement of his PEERS. Not only is the Magna Carta a vital document in itself, but it is one of the foundations of liberty, which so many of our ancestors have fought and died for. The fact that this case better resembles a show-trial held in the 18th century than a modern day one is quite perturbing. I say that this is not a South West story but I choose to believe that the tiniest crack, no matter how insignificant, can fracture and become a ridge given time. Could this be a predicate for more cases to be held without a trial? Could this new attitude amongst our judges, combined with our manic ‘anti-terrorist- politicians become a weapon against true justice?

These are the questions that many civil-rights groups have posed in response to this, and for a while the courts were willing to reassess their decision. Unfortunately that oh-so-short debate came to a close and the Court of Appeal has ruled that a criminal trial can take place without a jury. What else could this lead to, I wonder? Could another unlucky soul be forced to be judged without a jury on the grounds that the weather is a tad bit too wet and dangerous for the Jury to risk leaving their homes? There are already cases of innocent people being wrongfully accused of committing crimes as it is without the fate of untold thousands being held in the hands of one judge at a time. All this just to ensure ‘security’ and ‘justice’? It is quite a shame that no member of the courts have read up on the history of democracy, for if they had they would have come across a grand quote by Benjamin Franklin, which I’m sure we have all read before: “Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Link to Story:


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