Thursday, 21 February 2013

Ten questions

Pinched from The Metro:

Question one: ‘You have defined the defence of marital coercion on page five of the jury bundle and also explained what does not fall within the definition by way of examples. Please expand on the definition, provide examples of what may fall within the defence, specifically “will was overborne” and does the defence require violence or physical threat?’

Answer: ‘The pressure applied by the husband need not involve violence or physical threats. The law requires that a husband was present and coercion was to such an extent that she was impelled to commit an offence because she truly believed she had no real choice but to do so.’

Question two: ‘In the scenario that the defendant may be guilty but there may not be enough evidence provided by the prosecution at the material time when she signed the notice of intent to prosecute to feel sure beyond reasonable doubt, what should the verdict be, not guilty or unable or not safe to bring a verdict?’

Answer: ‘Turning to page three of my written directions, the direction is combining the burden and standard of proof with the need for a majority verdict. If, having carefully considered all of the evidence, at least ten of you feel sure of the guilt of the defendant then it would be your duty to return a verdict of guilty. On the other hand, if after careful consideration at least ten of you were feeling less than sure of guilt, then it would be your duty to return a verdict of not guilty. And so it follows that if at least ten of you are not sure, the appropriate verdict is one of not guilty.’

Question three: ‘If there is debatable evidence supporting the prosecution case can inferences be drawn to arrive at a verdict? If so can inferences/speculation be drawn on the full evidence or only where you have directed us to do so?’

Answer: ‘The drawing of an inference is a permissible process. Speculation is not. In this case the evidence on which the prosecution relies is largely undisputed, and where you are willing to draw inferences from that is entirely a matter for you.’

Question four: ‘Can you define what is reasonable doubt?’

Answer: ‘The prosecution must make you feel sure beyond reasonable doubt. A reasonable doubt is a doubt that is reasonable. These are ordinary English words that the law does not allow me to help you with, beyond the written directions [he had already given them]‘.

Question five: ‘Can a juror come to a verdict based on a reason that was not presented in court and has no facts or evidence to support it?’

Answer: ‘The answer to that question is a firm no. That is because it would be completely contrary to the directions I have given you.’

Question six: ‘Can we infer anything from the fact that the defence didn’t bring witnesses from the time of the offence, such as the au pair or neighbours?’

Answer: ‘You must not, as I have now emphasised many times, speculate on what witnesses who have not been called might have said or draw inferences from their absence. Her evidence is that no one else, other than Mr Huhne, was present when she signed the form.’

Question seven: ‘Does the defendant have an obligation to present a defence?’

Answer: ‘There is no burden on the defendant to prove her innocence and there is no burden on her to prove anything at all. The defendant does not have an obligation to present a defence, in this case the defendant has given evidence and it is for you to judge the evidence from her in the same way you would any other witness.’

Question eight: ‘Can we speculate about the events at the time Miss Pryce sent the form or what was in her mind when she sent the form?’

Answer: ‘The answer to that is an equally firm no. The position in a criminal is that no one must speculate. There is a difference between speculation, which is not permitted, and inference, which is the drawing of common-sense conclusions from the facts of which you are also sure. Speculation is guesswork. That is not the same as inference at all.’

Question nine: ‘The jury is considering the facts provided but is continuing to ask the questions raised by the police. Given that the case has come to court without answers to these questions please advise on which facts in the bundle the jury should count on to determine a not guilty or guilty verdict.’

Answer: ‘You must decide the case on the evidence [put before the court]. It is for you to decide which you consider to be important, truthful and reliable then decide what common-sense conclusions you can safely draw. It is not for me to tell you which piece or pieces of evidence are important and which are not. That is a matter for you to decide.’

Question ten: ‘Would religious conviction be a good enough reason for a wife feeling she had no choice i.e. she promised to obey her husband in her wedding vows, he ordered her to do something and she felt she had to obey?’

Answer: ‘This is not, with respect, a question about this case at all. Vicky Pryce does not say that any such reason formed any part of her decision to do what she did. Answering this question will not help you in any way whatsoever to reach a true verdict in this case. I must direct you firmly to focus on the real issues in this case.’


Barnacle Bill said...

I wonder how many of the jurors were educated under nuLabor at one of their bog standard comps?

formertory said...

Having read yesterday / day before of the flight of the white British from London, I wondered how many jurors didn't have English as first language, or who were adherents of some of our more, ah, simplistic religious persuasions.

It was certainly no man on a Clapham omnibus who phrased those questions as printed, though.

I rather liked Joshua Rozenberg's comment on the news last night; if they don't understand concepts like reasonable doubt, I wouldn't want to be tried by them.

Lola said...

It's just something else that makes me really angry about new labour/multiculturalism/the client state/ the replacement of the rule of law by the rule by 'the party' aka Gaulieters/destruction of education/ etc etc etc.

Everywhere you look there has been epic failure by the 'elite' and their bureaucratic satraps. Now then, where did I put that roll of piano wire...

The Stigler said...

If you're innocent, go with the magistrates. If you're guilty, opt for a jury.

You don't get paid for jury duty. Your employer may have it in the employee handbook that they pay for you, but it isn't statutory.

So, unsurprisingly, self-employed people do everything to get out of it. Sure, you do a day trying some scrote for twokking cars, but you could be there for months, steadily watching your business going to the wall.

adamcollyer said...

What I found interesting in this was that the grammar, sentence structure and vocabulary used in the questions are quite advanced. That jury were clearly not stupid or badly educated people.

But they apparently had little idea about various basic principles of our legal system, like the assumption of innocence.

Either the list was misreported - or there is something very odd here.

Nigel Sedgwick said...

There seems to be considerable concern here as to what is going on. On this, I have two thoughts.

Firstly, twelve individual people form a jury. I see no particular reason why they should not have an irreconcilable disagreement as to the verdict, such that even a majority verdict cannot be reached. [Aside: in fact, I am somewhat surprised that so many juries do reach a unanimous verdict.]

Secondly, there is the concept of jury nullification, where the jury returns a formal verdict of not guilty as (so it seems) either a general objection to the law against the crime charged, or as a rejection of the prosecution brought in the particular case. Given the public and political nature of this particular charge, in which a cabinet minister has been charged and changed his plea to guilty, I would not be surprised if several members of the jury feel that the continuing case against the wife would have been better discontinued. That itself (ie this being a view of some of the jury but not all of them) could, IMHO, be a contributing factor to the seemingly confused nature of the questions asked of the judge.

I'll pass over with just a mention, the separate matter of the legal basis of the original law breaking: the draconian nature of UK speed limit laws (particularly on high quality open roads) and the over-zealous and robotic way in which they are pursued.

Best regards

James Higham said...

Answer: ‘The pressure applied by the husband need not involve violence or physical threats. The law requires that a husband was present and coercion was to such an extent that she was impelled to commit an offence because she truly believed she had no real choice but to do so.’

[Shakes head slowly from side to side.]

Mark Wadsworth said...

BB, statistically about 11 out of 12 will have gone to state school. How many went to state school under New Labour is a question of how old they are.

FT, that's racist. But possibly true.

L, that's racist as well.

TS, is that how it works? But what if you double bluff - you are guilty so go for magistrates to make yourself look innocent?

AC, the precise grammar of the questions puzzled me, some court official must have re-drafted them, I suppose.

NS, yes, on a human level I think Ms Pryce deserved maybe a slap on the wrist, a couple of points on her licence and forget about the whole thing. We know she did it and all this nonsense about 'marital coercion' seems pretty irrelevant to me.

JH, so what's your interpretation of that defence?

formertory said...

FT, that's racist.

I'm sure you must have meant "FT, that's racist, innit".

Oh, and a legitimate cause for concern. Daily Mash did a good job on it, too.

Mark Wadsworth said...

FT, yes, the Daily Mash was excellent as per usual, innit?