David Spens QC's writes to The Times to address the need for jury trials and to consider how to resurrect them during the pandemic. It was published in The Times on Wednesday 6th May 2020.
Sir, During the Second World War cases were tried by juries of seven people (letters, May 2 & 5). Why not now? The only exceptions were juries of 12 for treason and murder, both of which were punishable by death. There was no provision for a majority verdict but might 6-1 be acceptable now? If a juror fell ill there could be an alternate juror present until the jury retired to consider its verdict. For these eight jurors social distancing should be possible in court using the press benches, and in retirement for the seven jurors. The pressure for trial without jury will come from the Treasury, which will cite the backlog. Ironically, having required a sizable cut to the number of court sitting days, it is the Treasury itself via the Ministry of Justice that created most of that backlog.
David Spens, QC
QEB Hollis Whiteman, London EC4
See here for the page in The Times.