Jeremy Thorpe and juries cross-examined | Letters

Dr Jonathan Rogers on the veil of secrecy that was drawn over the British jury system in the wake of the former Liberal party’s leader’s acquittal

It was interesting to read Geoffrey Robertson’s account of the aftermath of Jeremy Thorpe’s trial (Here’s another Thorpe scandal – its chilling legacy in law, 2 June). He states that section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 is “still on the statute book”, but in England and Wales the provision was repealed three years ago: Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, s.74 (2).

Admittedly the prohibition on jurors explaining their reasoning to the media still exists, in another form: see Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015, s.74 (1). But the point is that the law has recently been reconsidered, though the force of Robertson’s criticisms remains. Still the preferred view is, apparently, that we would have much to worry about if we did routinely learn “the real reasons” for juries’ decisions. So we muddle on in this way, paying lip service to the institution of trial by jury, evidently without really believing in their ability to give reasons which accord with the evidence and the law.

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