dungeon door image

Is this where justice went wrong?

If you are a solicitor or barrister you will need to have professional indemnity insurance - you will find it via the PII Hub!

The cornerstone of British justice depends upon the jury system. The theory is that 12 people, drawn from any social levels in society, decide upon the guilt or innocence of a defendant after listening to all the evidence. They are then sent away to consider their verdict, which they should do without any interruption or outside influence whatsoever. It is as fair a system as can be devised, but like every system the human element can always throw a spanner into the works!

It is impressed upon every jury that they must reach a verdict based on the evidence that they have heard, and nothing else. However, at Newcastle Crown Court in July of 1998 this stipulation was ignored by a jurist who decided that far older methods were more reliable than modern evidence systems.

The defendant had been charged with grievous bodily harm, an offence for which, had he been found guilty, may well have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment. It was therefore vital that a fair and accurate decision on his innocence or guilt was reached by the jury. Before they retired to consider their verdict, however, one of their number, a young male sporting a ponytail, passed a note to the judge asking for the date and time of birth of the defendant. He explained that he intended to draw up an astrological chart which, he claimed, would provide an accurate and foolproof answer to the question. Hardly surprisingly, the judge was not greatly impressed by this attempt to introduce a system of assessing guilt which was last used in Britain during the middle ages! When he was told that this was not acceptable as evidence the juror was completely nonplussed and claimed that it was impossible for him to reach a fair verdict without these means.

It was gently pointed out to the gentleman that he had taken an oath to consider the facts that were laid before him and none other; but since he continued to insist that his astrological mumbo-jumbo was still more relevant to him the judge had no option but to discharge him, and constitute a new jury.

There have, to date, been no moves in the United Kingdom towards teaching barristers and solicitors how to interpret the movements of the heavens, the flight of birds or the entrails of sacrificial victims.

Site Copyright Dean Phillips 2010