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Crown Court
06 Jul 2011
by Rhea Alton

Covering a crown court is one of the really interesting aspects of the life of a local reporter. It is the place where you come face to face with murderers, rapists, abusers and many more, and watch as public justice unfolds.

Covering a trial has its interesting – and dull – moments but for me, particularly this week, I have been interested in the jury. Not any specific jury but the subject of the jury as a whole.

I really think the abolishment of jurors would be a huge mistake. For the decision of another person’s fate to lie with one man or woman – a judge – is wrong….justice is much better served when the decision has been made by 12 people in agreement.

I always like to watch the jury being selected and sworn in, seeing who is not picked, seeing who is, seeing who takes the oath on the bible and who doesn’t, hearing their accents and the way they speak, watching their reaction as the charges are read out and observing them as the evidence is given.

Juries are always varied, people from different walks of life, people who are different shapes and sizes….sometimes the majority of the jury is female, sometimes male, sometimes they are old, sometimes young. I don’t think I have ever seen a jury bench full of similar people…and that’s the way it should be.

When you have a man on the stand accused of abusing a young girl you may think the last thing the defendant wants to see are a load of middle-aged women on the jury bench who may well have daughters the age of the victim, or a young girl who is close in age to the victim, but it doesn’t really matter who the jurors are…it is all about the case, the evidence, the facts.

A single line in a trial can entirely change the outcome, sometimes as a court reporter you think you know when that it – see it in the face of the jurors, or in the face of the defence or prosecuting barrister………

I have sat through cases where I am positive the verdict will be guilty and a firm not guilty is returned within the hour, or a case which seems so simple being discussed by a jury for days.

I have had the misfortune of hearing a defendant boasting that he did the deed moments after being found not guilty and the misfortune of seeing the reaction of the family of a defendant who continues to protest his or her innocence after the guilty verdict has been delivered.

All in all I believe justice is being done, for the most part. A jury must decide “so they are sure” that the person in the dock committed the crime they are charged with. If they are not “sure” the verdict must be not guilty.

I cannot see a fairer way really…..