For many, trial by jury has long been the most important part of our judicial system. Those accused of a criminal offence, it is argued, have a right to be tried by 12 of their peers, who are selected at random from the community. But, as the decades have passed, I have become increasingly convinced that the jury system has become anachronistic and is now fraught with problems.
When it comes to alleged crimes perpetrated against children, ordinary folk are programmed to feel disgusted and will be most reluctant to acquit if they feel there is even a smidgen of doubt that the accused may be guilty. Everyone knows that 'guilty beyond reasonable doubt' is unlikely to come into many jurors' decision making, but rather it is a case of 'are the chances this person might well be guilty?'
And how can the system prevent certain jury members from making decisions based on their in-built prejudices? What was it that juror Kasim Davey posted on Facebook after a trial at which he had been adjudicating....'Woooow, I wasn't expecting to be in a jury deciding a paedophile's fate. I've always wanted to fuck up a paedo.'
I do concede that judges can also be biased against certain tranches of the population but if we had a system in the crown court similar to that at a magistrates' court, i.e. three trained judges prevailing, I think it would be likely we would have fewer miscarriages of justice, particularly where historical allegations are concerned, as these usually are based on one person's word against another. Three judges would also be wary of the police's m.o. of trawling for complainants when the initial complaint has no evidence to support it... quantity replacing quality 'evidence', as is often the case nowadays.
I dread to think the number of innocent people serving time in jail - the national figure doesn't bear thinking about. I can state without hesitation that, with the growth of social media, if anyone thinks that the long established rule of jurors not checking out the background to defendants (to avoid bias thinking) still exists, he or she is living in cloud cuckoo land.