11:59, November 23 82 0 theguardian.com

2018-11-23 11:59:17
The case for keeping juries in rape trials

There are so many points in Julie Bindel’s article (Juries have no place in rape trials. They simply can’t be trusted, 21 November) that cry out for a response but space requires me to limit my focus.

Much has changed since Bindel observed cases in court in 2003. A complainant invariably gives evidence by video, including cross-examination, meaning that, unlike the accused, they never have to attend the court at all, and by law now they have protection from intrusive questioning unless obviously relevant.

It is also surprising that Bindel failed to point out that Cork, in Ireland, is a different legal jurisdiction to the UK and practice in Ireland is evidently very different from the UK. No barrister in this country would get away with making the sort of inappropriate and sexist comment made by the barrister in Cork. Much remains to be done to improve the investigation of rape cases but true complainants should not be scared off by inaccurate assertions.

Mark George QC

Manchester

The low conviction rate in rape cases is very regrettable. But the suggestion by Labour MP Anne Coffey that juries be scrapped in such trials is also very regrettable. The jury trial is at the very core of necessities for a democratic society. To be judged by one’s peers is even more important, I consider, than being able to elect representatives to act for us politically. The very suggestion of scrapping juries smacks of fascism and it is frightening to see it coming from an MP of a party that aspires to be the “party of the many”. It is also reported that juries in rape cases should have a training session beforehand. That is a good idea and should be implemented. I also realise that in certain situations of the breakdown of normal society, as during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, it may be necessary to let lawyers judge us, even if one shudders at the thought. However, we are not in an emergency setting as a society. The scrapping of juries in rape trials would be undemocratic and even worse than the regrettably low conviction rate.

Robin Davies

Tregarth, Gwynedd

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