They’re trying to get rid of juries again. This time the pretext is the low conviction rate in rape cases. Now no male person, and only approved women, can even discuss the topic of rape any more.
In the dogma which is rapidly taking over this country, all men are considered to be potential if not actual rapists.
Whatever I say on the subject, I will be accused of promoting ‘rape culture’. So I shall not do so.
But look carefully at this passage from the Law Commission’s new document on ‘Evidence In Sexual Offence Prosecutions’.
It speaks of a project which ‘sits within a wider context of decades of work by campaigners, governments, parliaments, courts, police and many others that has . . . sought to improve justice outcomes for complainants of rape and serious sexual offences’.
Amid this verbal bindweed, the alert citizen will spot a great stinking blob of blatant prejudice.
When it says it wants to ‘improve justice outcomes for complainants of rape and serious sexual offences’, it means more convictions of people accused of these offences, not fewer of them.
But how does the Law Commission know that the conviction rate is not in fact correct? How does it know that the courts are acquitting guilty people? It doesn’t.
What if juries are finding people not guilty because there is not enough evidence to convict them beyond reasonable doubt?
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has been among the loudest voices complaining about the current state of affairs, declaring as long ago as 2012 that ‘only 6 per cent of rape cases ever reach conviction’.
Actually, once a rape case reaches court, juries in England and Wales are more likely to convict than acquit a defendant, and this has been so for at least 15 years.
A study by Professor Cheryl Thomas of University College London recently found that about 75 per cent of the rape cases that actually reach court result in a conviction.
As the organisation Full Fact pointed out long ago ‘the 6 per cent of cases cited by Yvette Cooper describes the percentage of all the cases recorded by the police as a rape that end up with someone being convicted of rape’.
Many of these cases are dropped before they get to court, for many reasons.
Also there are more ‘not guilty’ pleas in rape cases than in trials of any other offence. Professor Thomas says: ‘It’s clear that there are serious problems with how rape complaints are handled by police and how long cases take to reach court.
‘But juries are not responsible for this. They can only decide the cases put to them, and this research shows that if rape complainants can put their evidence to a jury, they have a good likelihood of securing a conviction.’
So the supposed problem with getting rape convictions, whether you agree with Yvette Cooper or not, really has very little to do with juries being misled by so-called ‘myths’ and so providing a very low conviction rate. Because they aren’t, and they don’t.
So you have to wonder what all the fuss is in fact about. Scotland’s government also recently sought an ‘experiment’ in non-jury trials for rape, but lawyers torpedoed it by refusing to take part.
One objector, lawyer Murray Macara, observed: ‘There is clearly a political dimension to this, to secure higher conviction rates.
One way to do that is the use of single-judge trials.’ So what is all this really about?
Another Scottish lawyer, Ross Yuill, got it right, saying: ‘Either the jury system works for all offences or it doesn’t. There should be no distinction based on the types of cases being prosecuted.’
You may be sure that if we allow rape cases to be heard without juries, the cry will soon go up to get rid of juries in all kinds of other matters, until — in reality — the jury is dead.
There is something deep in all ruling elites which does not like jury trial, and that includes Britain, where the Home Office and the ‘Ministry of Justice’ must grind their teeth in private, wondering how on earth the Government ever gave away so much power.
Without juries, any trial is just a committee of state employees deciding how guilty the accused is, and how heavily he must be punished.
The role of defence lawyers is basically to plead for a softer sentence, rather than fight the charge. In most civil law systems, the defendant has to co-operate with the prosecution.
That is why a country with proper juries is thousands of times more free than a country without them. That is why it really is better that some guilty people go free, than that one innocent person is locked up in prison for years for a crime he did not do.
In countries without juries, the state can just put you in prison because it feels like it. It does not have to prove its case to any independent person. The whole nature of a country changes when it gets rid of juries.
True jury trial — an independent jury sitting alone, required in all contested criminal cases and whose verdict cannot be overturned by a higher court — is incredibly rare elsewhere in the world.
In my experience, most British people are amazed by how rare it is, when told. Democrats are complacent on the subject, and poor at defending this precious possession.
Totalitarians and despots, by contrast, immediately recognise juries as their enemy and get rid of them.
The Russian Bolsheviks abolished them as soon as they came to power in 1917.
The last true juries in France were shut down by the Nazi occupation authorities in 1940. Even where juries survive, mostly in Anglosphere countries, the option of juryless trial is often available.
In the U.S., plea-bargaining has usurped juries in huge numbers of cases, where defendants choose a short sentence rather than risk a far heavier one if the jury convicts them.
Only the very rich, able to afford a full-scale defence costing millions, can avoid this unpleasant dilemma.
Here, juries have already been badly undermined. On the excuse of being ‘tough on crime’, there have been repeated attempts to weaken them and other protections, and various ‘reports’ suggesting they are a nuisance and an obstacle.
The majority verdict, brought in by Roy Jenkins in 1967, makes it quite impossible for the scene portrayed in that fine film 12 Angry Men to take place in this country.
If one brave, obstinate juror holds out for the innocence of the accused, he can simply be overruled by the judge accepting a majority verdict.
The pretext for this change, supposed ‘jury-nobbling’, was never adequate. If such nobbling was taking place, then it should have been prosecuted and punished.
But the worrying truth is that jury trial has fewer and fewer defenders, and more and more enemies.
Without fierce resistance, it will simply be whittled away and we shall have, as so many other countries do, a strong state which can do what it likes with us.
And the chances are that it will be a Left-wing strong state, more likely to use its powers to enforce its dogmas and limit speech than it is to be hard on actual crime. Defend the jury while you can.
Read More: PETER HITCHENS: If rape cases are to be heard without juries