Thursday, September 15, 2011

Another backdown?

On the heels of its backdown over the right to silence, the government looks to be backing down on the right to trial by jury as well:

People accused of child-smacking or domestic violence crimes could keep the right to have their cases heard by a jury, under an eleventh hour proposal to make the Government's criminal justice reforms more palatable.


Mr Power's proposed changes soften the bill by enabling the court to allow jury trials for such charges in "exceptional circumstances", or ones considered to be complex or sensitive. The defendant would have to satisfy the court of such circumstances.

This is better, but still not good enough. The right to trial by jury is fundamental. People shouldn't have to beg for it, like a peasant before a king. Human rights are exactly that, rights, not favours dispensed on whether the powerful think the recipient is "worthy" or "deserving" enough. The reason we have laws in the first place is to ensure our government and criminal justice system don't operate like that.

Power's "compromise" isn't. It would still mean that people could be locked up for substantial periods of time without the vital bullshit detector of having the police's case scrutinised by a jury of their peers. And that is absolutely abhorrent. Our politicians must hold the line, and vote against it. And if they don't, we should hold them and their parties accountable for it at the ballot box.