Jury reforms

I see that the NIO are putting out to consultation proposals which would drastically overhaul the Criminal Justice system with respect to juries.

Let's set aside my dismay that this decision has not been made by a locally elected Justice Minister for just a second.

What is being proposed is to remove from law all the schedules of exemptions which currently exist under the Juries (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.

As a trainee Solicitor I am ineligible for Jury service under Schedule II of the same order. Those with certain kinds of criminal records are disqualified under Schedule I and certain professions are excusable under Schedule III.

I have mixed feelings on this announcement.

Solicitors and those in the legal profession generally are ineligible for Jury service because of our knowledge of the law in relation to the general public. Conventional Jurisprudence holds the belief that one is entitled to be tried by a Jury of your peers.

In that sense having a solicitor or barrister sitting on the bench seems unfair.

The one upside of having members of the legal profession sitting on Juries, for me anyway, relates to rape and sexual violence cases.

I would hope that rapists would be less likely to be able to fool them with the previous sexual history of the defendant.

All in all, while any changes to our outdated Criminal Justice system are to be welcomed I still believe that we should ere on the side of caution.

We are dealing with people's liberty here and any changes we make must be made in the interest of Justice and not the law.

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