Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Liberty In Jeopardy

Good news about one-sided extradition arrangements, assuming that anything comes of it. But the worst possible news about the abolition of the double jeopardy rule in Scotland, even if there is little chance that it will be enacted.

The rest of us ought to benefit from the Union by adopting Scotland's successful extension of the historic qualifications for jury service so as to include far more women, rather than the free-for-all that we have adopted. The impossibility in Scots Law of charging anyone on an uncorroborated confession ought also to be considered most seriously elsewhere in the Kingdom.

But while there is an automatic right to trial by jury for serious offences in Scotland, the decision on which way to proceed in an 'each-way' case lies with the prosecution rather than with the defence. The Police have no power to caution, and proceed entirely under the direction of the locally unaccountable Procurator Fiscal, who does not prosecute unless it is in the public interest to do so, which it is for the prosecution alone to decide and for which it does not have to give any explanation. It is extremely difficult to bring a private prosecution, far in excess of the necessary restrictions on that practice which rightly exist elsewhere.

These profoundly illiberal arrangements must change. They certainly must not be compounded by allowing people to be tried repeatedly for the same offence until a conviction has been wrung out of the system.


  1. It will probably be passed as Labour and the Conservatives both support the bill.

    It is being restricted only to cover serious offences such as murder and rape. Retrial for lesser offences is not planned - yet.

    You get trial by jury in Scotland if you are possibly facing more than six months in prison in Scotland. In England it is more than a year.

  2. In diferent but related ways, I don't know what either Labour or the Tories think that they are for if they are going to vote for something like this. But then, you could say that about them on pretty much anything now. And I do.