United Kingdom

Bye-Bye, Jury

Courtroom coup

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Britain is poised to eliminate almost two-thirds of all jury trials, according to a report in the New Statesman. New rules would allow a wide range of offenses (including any crime with a maximum sentence of less than two years) to be tried solely by a judge employed by the crown. To make the situation scarier, much of this change is being implemented by bureaucratic stealth and with as little public comment as possible. As the New Statesman's Nick Cohen put it, "In America, Australia or any other common-law democracy, it would need a coup d'etat to implement the government's programme."

Part of the reason Tony Blair's Labour government has been able to get away with its scheme is the British public's outrage at a crime wave that has had shocked citizens gasping, as one did in a CBS News report last May, that "London is more dangerous these days than New York."