Labour have announced their support for cutting the number of jurors needed to hold a trial.
The party has decided to push for this policy in order to clear the backlog of cases caused by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. It would see the number of jurors cut from twelve to seven, in a temporary move not seen since the Second World War.
They argue that this measure would allow socially distanced trials to take place. When court cases resumed following the first lockdown, there had been numerous case cancellations due to the inability to hold a socially distanced trial.
Figures have revealed that there are currently 54,000 unheard cases, setting a record.
Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy said: “Victims of rape, murder, domestic abuse, robbery and assault are facing delays of up to four years because of the Government’s failure to act. Justice cannot be delayed any further. Labour is calling on the Government to tackle the backlog by speeding up the roll-out of Nightingale courts and temporarily introducing wartime juries of seven until the pandemic is over.”
In the past, Lammy has criticised the idea of cutting jury sizes. He said that the idea would “damage our democracy”.
He added: “As set out in Condorcet’s jury theorem, the larger the jury, the more likely it is to make the ‘correct’ judgement. This could be for several reasons, including the fact that larger groups can balance out individual prejudices. As the Black Lives Matter movement makes its voice heard, it would be wrong to ignore the reality of unconscious bias in our justice system.”
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland said that he was “very attracted” to the idea of cutting jury sizes temporarily.