Since Westminster announced plans to review human rights legislation, those supportive of change have pointed to positive aspects of British law - one of which is trial by jury.

They are right of course to say that the principle of being tried by twelve members of the public is a good one, but those very same people have in the last few days started to be critical of the whole process because they did not agree with the verdict in the so-called “Colston Four” case .

In the Crown Court, it is the judge who has the responsibility for telling the jury what the law is and it's a jury’s responsibility to make findings of fact.

The jury is meant to convict somebody if they find the facts proven having followed the judge’s directions on the law. In reality that does not always happen.

Until 1815 there were 200 crimes that were punishable by death, including cutting down trees and shoplifting.

In reality juries were extremely reluctant to make findings of guilt when they knew that the person in front of them could be hanged for committing what they believed was a trivial crime.

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By 1830 there were very few convictions for those offences for that very reason. Yet the jury's role was simply to make findings of fact. Those juries went beyond that role and the result was the abolition of the death penalty for most crimes by the middle of the 19th century.

That tradition of juries refusing to follow the letter of the law where they felt that the law was wrong continued when Clive Ponting was acquitted by a jury for offences under the Official Secrets Act even though in law he might have been convicted.

The jury must have believed that the law was wrong and refused to follow it. Whilst it's impossible dissect the reasoning of the jury in the Colston Four case it may be that the same thing has happened again. That is in the nature of the jury system.

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The reaction of the Attorney General, Suella Braverman has lacked credibility. All the higher courts can do is to look at the directions the judge gave to the jury and decide whether they were correct or not.

They cannot change the verdict.

Yet nobody has suggested that the judge made any errors in his summing-up to the jury. She should know full well that there is no reason to refer this case to the higher courts and in suggesting otherwise I believe she's undermining any credibility that she had in order to throw meat to those on her own benches who are angry at the verdict.

Attorneys General are meant to tell governments what they need to hear not what they want to hear.

The UK government is drafting a new law to deal with damaging statues with sentences of up to 10 years imprisonment so damaging a statue is to be placed in same category as illegal possession of a firearm or sexual assault.

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Even stranger, they want to take away the right to trial by jury where the damage to a statue is less than £5000.  

Instead of abolishing jury trial outright what they're trying to do is to chip away at the offences that offer the possibility of jury trial so that the vast majority of trials end up in the Magistrates Court.

They do this on the basis that that juries cannot be relied on to return the “right” verdict often enough so the answer is to limit ever further the offences that can end up before a jury.

We are happily free of the system that exists in America where there is extensive jury vetting before a trial although there have been occasions in the past when UK governments have tried to influence the make-up of juries.

In the main however juries are a cross section of the society that they represent.

There will be people on juries whose views are extreme just as there are in real life, but the vast majority of people will be open minded and sensible and will want to do the job fairly because they reflect society as a whole and I believe most members of the public do approach their responsibilities as jurors in an objective manner.

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I'm not going to offer a comment on the Bristol case because I didn’t hear the evidence but what I do know is the jury have taken a decision and that decision has to be respected even where people might not agree with it.

It shows the juries will sometimes return verdicts that they think are morally right even if they court controversy by doing so. That’s their right.

What isn't right is for politicians to extol the virtues of the jury system on the one hand and then criticise a jury’s decision they don’t like on the other.

They cannot have it both ways.

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