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On March 22, 2005 six men were acquitted from a fraud case costing 60 million. Considered to be one of Britain's longest and costliest fraud trials, it just collapsed after twenty-one months of court proceedings at London's Old Bailey.2
The jury's inability to come up with a fair verdict was pointed out to be the reason for such failure. There had been disruptions and problems with the selected jury and further allegations regarding an unfair trial rose. The verdict cause the public to not to remain in silence that caused unrest among the government. This situation led to the Attorney general to impose on the Criminal Act of 2003 regarding fraud trials that put the juries out of the scene. 4
There had been protests even when it was proposed by the Attorney General Lord Lord Goldsmith. However, the pressure to remove juries from the most difficult cases dates back to the Roskill committee on fraud trials, which recommended trial by a judge with expert lay assessors in 1986.5
The implementation of Part 7 of the Criminal Justice Act of 2003 seemed to be the most appropriate practice in complex fraud trials as what happened in the Jubilee line trial. The Government is no longer willing to lose millions of money spent on a single trial thus a trial without a jury is an alternative. The parliament's approval on the said proposition was justifiable through certain aspects that may seem unreasonable for some conservative groups who are not able to see the real deal behind the fraud trials with a judge-only trial.
Further explanations regarding this provision were explained in the Explanatory Memorandum to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (Commencement No. 12 and Transitory Provisions) Order 005. The following are some of the details regarding its implementation.
The Government considers that there are certain fraud cases where the length or complexity of the trial is likely to be so burdensome to the jury that it is in the interests of justice that the trial be conducted without a jury by a judge sitting alone. Provisions in Part 7 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 give effect to this policy and provide for prosecution applications for certain fraud cases to be conducted without a jury. The requirement that the provisions apply only to cases where a notice has been given under section 51B of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 limits them to cases of serious or complex fraud.6
The provisions operate only where an application is made by the prosecution, the judge is satisfied that the length or complexity of the trial is likely to make it so burdensome upon the jury that the interests of justice require a non jury trial, and the Lord Chief Justice or a judge nominated by him gives his approval.7
It is the Minister's view that the provisions in Part 7 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 for non jury trials for certain fraud cases are compatible with Convention Rights, as Article 6 of the Convention (right to a fair trial) does not include a right to trial by jury. The Joint Committee on Human Rights commented (Second Report: Criminal Justice Bill, paragraph 5) - ...Show more
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The idea of an "ancient right" to jury trial is an attractive argument, and the present-day English jury does indeed have roots that can be traced back several centuries. But the jury has continuously adapted and evolved, and its functions have changed fundamentally over the years…
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