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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 November, 2003, 20:41 GMT
Blunkett tackles jury tampering
BBC graphic showing David Blunkett in front of the scales of justice
Mr Blunkett wants to restrict jury trials
The Home Secretary says the level of jury tampering on Merseyside is a compelling reason why some trials should only be heard by judges.

David Blunkett was speaking in the Commons after a meeting with Merseyside Chief Constable Norman Bettison.

Mr Bettison presented Mr Blunkett with a dossier of cases where there had been jury tampering, including a major drugs trial last year which collapsed.

Mr Blunkett told the Commons serious offenders were "mocking the system".

He added the levels of jury tampering in Merseyside were worryingly high.

MPs are debating the remaining changes to the Criminal Justice Bill before it is expected to become law.

'Constant threat'

Mr Blunkett wants to restrict jury trials in complicated fraud cases, and cases involving organised crime where the risk of jury tampering is increased.

"The next jury would certainly know that the jury had been interfered with," Mr Blunkett said.

"That jury itself would not only be difficult to get but would be under constant threat as well."

Mr Bettison took his concerns to Mr Blunkett after the collapse of a drugs trial last year due to jury nobbling which led to a retrial.

'Heavy sentences'

Detective Superintendent Julieanne Wallace-Jones, of Merseyside Police, said more needed to be done to stop jury tampering.

She said trial by judge will never replace trial by jury, but keeping the names of jurors secret and tough sentences for those convicted of intimidation are essential.

"We have to have a true deterrent," she told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"The type of trials where approaches are made to jurors usually involve massive drugs importation when they do have access to a lot of money.

"What we need are heavy prison sentences for anyone involved in approaching jury members."

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