Saturday, June 5, 2010

Article 39

I'm a minarchist libertarian, it means that I believe we should live under the most minimal of states, that government should be defined and confined to certain areas of defence, aggression against a person/fraud basically just there to protect the life, liberty, and property of individuals. Part of this defence means that people have the right to trial by jury and when this is set aside, alarm bells start ringing for me, especially when it's set aside for things like cost.
A judge has ordered that a libel trial being brought by the bodyguard of Michael Jackson against Channel 4 is to be heard without a jury.
The controversial decision by Mr Justice Tugendhat comes just two weeks before the trial and has raised fears about the future of juries in libel cases. The trial involves allegations of dishonesty and fabrication by the programme makers and has already run up £3 million in legal costs.
But the late decision by the judge, who was concerned that a jury would add to the costs, has alarmed media lawyers. Matt Fiddes’s legal team has lodged an urgent appeal, to be heard early next week, which will be a test of the right to a jury in libel cases.
Trial by jury became a pretty explicit right in one of the most influential clauses of Magna Carta, signed by King John. Article 39 of the Magna Carta read: Nullus liber homo capiatur, vel imprisonetur, aut desseisetur de libero tenemento, vel libertatibus, vel liberis consuetudinibus suis, sut utlagetur, aut exuletur, aut aliquo modo destruatur, nec super eum ibimus, nec super eum mittemus, nisi per legale judicium parium suorum, vel per legem terrae. It is translated by Lysander Spooner in his Essay on the Trial by Jury: "No free man shall be captured, and or imprisoned, or disseised (To dispossess unlawfully of real property; oust.) of his freehold, and or of his liberties, or of his free customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor will we proceed against him by force or proceed against him by arms, but by the lawful judgment of his peers.
It is one of the most basic and ancient rights of free Englishmen and one of the founding rights of the English Constitution. Mr Justice Tugendhat has decided that one of our rights can be set aside because it will cost too much and much as I'm for saving costs this is so, so wrong on so many levels. If a judge can set aside trial by jury for one thing, sooner or later some judge may decide it can be set aside again for say a complex murder trial. We already have enough trouble with "Family Courts" removing children "at risk" on the say so of experts without going down this route.
There are many cases when the Jury contrary to the actual facts has decided that someone is innocent or should be set free, this is often enough in the case of self defence, yet if you remove this safeguard, the full hammer of the law will come down, there will be no compassion and eventually no justice, merely rule of law.

If Mr Justice Tugendhat gets away with this it will be a very bad day for justice in England.

1 annotations:

Trooper Thompson said...

Not only is this outrageous and unconstitutional, it's a bloody cheek! It's not the jury that takes up all the time and drags out procedings, but the judges and their paid-by-the-word lawyer pals.