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Scotland’s juryless rape trials bid alarms Four Bars
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10 May 2024 / britain Print

Scotland’s juryless rape trials bid alarms Four Bars

Organisations representing barristers in the four jurisdictions in Ireland and Britain have issued a joint statement expressing concern about the proposed removal of juries for rape and other serious sexual offence trials in Scotland.

The statement was released today (10 May) after a meeting of the ‘Four Bars’ – including the Bar of Ireland – in Belfast this week.

A committee of members of the Scottish parliament (MSP) was split on the proposal, which is contained in the Victims, Witnesses and Justice Reform (Scotland) Bill.

‘Negative consequences’

“It is a matter of considerable concern to the Four Bars that the removal of juries, made up of a cross-section of the public, for rape and other serious sexual-offence trials continues to be pursued in Scotland,” the organisations stated.

They added that the proposal had drawn “substantial and widespread criticism” from academics and most legal professionals.

“The evidence base demonstrating the possible benefits of such a change is narrow and there are foreseeable negative consequences – including the undermining of faith in, and respect for, the role of the jury throughout our criminal-justice systems,” the groups continued.

Call to change course

“At a time when the separation of court and state, so crucial to liberal democracy, is under attack, the Four Bars stand as one in opposition to this unjustified and dangerous proposed development,” they said.

The statement concluded by expressing the hope that the new First Minister of Scotland, John Swinney, would heed their concerns and change course on the issue.

The joint statement came from the Faculty of Advocates of Scotland, the Bar Council of England and Wales, the Bar of Ireland, and the Bar Council of Northern Ireland.

Swinney became First Minister after his SNP party colleague Humza Yousaf resigned amid the collapse of a power-sharing agreement with Scotland’s Greens.

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