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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 13:44 GMT 14:44 UK
Trial for 92p theft costs thousands
The right to trial by jury has been called into question after a shoplifting case involving a 92p tin of spaghetti bolognese cost the taxpayer more than 8,000.

Steven Phillips exercised his right to be tried by jury at Newcastle Crown Court.

The jurors took just 30 minutes to convict him.

Labour MP Ronnie Campbell said the case "highlighted the stupidity of the law as it stands".

'Unfunny' cost

The Blyth Valley MP said: "I think it's pretty disgraceful he has been allowed to go for trial for the theft of a tin of spaghetti.

"The thousands it has cost the taxpayer makes it laughable - but the unfunny thing is taxpayers having to pick up the bill."

However, a spokesman for the Crown Prosecution Service said: "Theft is theft and we consider each case on its merits.

"Regardless of cost, if there's evidence which gives us a realistic prospect of conviction we will proceed."

Bill rejected

Closed-circuit television cameras caught Phillips putting the can of spaghetti bolognese in his coat pocket.

The 23-year-old said he wanted the opportunity to protest his innocence to a jury.

Theft can be dealt with either at magistrates court or at crown court.

A Bill based on a review of the criminal justice system by Lord Justice Auld will be included in the Queen's Speech in November.

The Auld report recommended that people accused of crimes for which the maximum sentence is two years or less should no longer have the right to choose trial by jury at Crown Court.

However, a similar bill was rejected twice in the last Parliament by the House of Lords.

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See also:

16 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Jury trials 'facing fresh threat'
15 Apr 02 | UK Politics
Labour 'U-turn' on trial by jury
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