By Andy Mac
1st April 2020
Anybody who has seen the epic movie ‘Twelve Angry Men’ and Henry Fonda’s brilliant performance in it can have any doubt about the need for accused persons to be tried by a jury of their peers. Jury trials are an essential pillar of a free and democratic society and, in peacetime, societies disregard these freedoms at their peril.
What the hell is going on up in Scotland? Within the past week, the Scottish Information Commissioner explicitly warned the Scottish Government (oh how I hate to use the term ‘government’ when discussing that bunch of Anglophobic misfits!!) that Scotland was the only jurisdiction in the Western world to restrict Freedom of Information duties due to the outbreak of Coronavirus. The changes amount to extending the time Scottish public bodies respond to a Freedom of Information request to 40 weeks! Talk about not wanting to be held accountable for your actions!!
Now we have this ludicrous idea of suspending trial by jury using Coronavirus as a convenient excuse. As I asked of the European panjandrums a couple of weeks ago, have they never heard of video conferencing? Some decisions – not least those on the fundamental dichotomy between incarceration and liberty cannot and must not be left solely to judges and lawyers. That truth underpins the whole basis of trial by jury in the first place!
What do we have in Lord Carloway? A Lord President determined to uphold the basic tenets of jurisprudence beyond question, or some compromised judge anxious to curry favour with a junta-lite determined to run a coach and horses through basic liberties? As for the SNP, weren’t they the mouthpieces of Scots apparently ‘dragged out of the European Union against their will’? What a pity they seem to keen on standing Scots in a courtroom and having their fate determined by just one man….against their will.
I hope that, when all this is over, the government in London will take a long, hard and deep look into the whole basis of devolution. I campaigned against it in Belfast and Bangor in 1998; I campaigned against it in Edinburgh and Dumfries in 1997; and nothing I’ve seen since has convinced me it benefits anyone other than those in its employ. Suspending a centuries-old principle of law should really be a wake-up call.
Read an article from The Times here covering the matter.