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Bruce Holder, vicechairman Criminal Bar Association
"There is growing opposition to the bill"
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The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"The government has already been defeated once"
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Monday, 28 August, 2000, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Curb on trial by jury to go ahead

Labour wants to restrict the right to a jury trial
The government says it has no intention of abandoning a controversial bill to curb the right to trial by jury.

The proposal has already been rejected by the House of Lords and the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) says it believes it will be thrown out again.


It is just, fair and proportionate

Home Secretary Jack Straw
But the Home Office Minister Lord Bassam insists it will go ahead.

The government wants to restrict the right to jury trials for what it terms "middle ranking offences".

It says the amended bill would streamline the criminal justice system, save 128m-a-year and prevent some defendants from "working the system".

But the CBA says the bill is a threat to civil liberties and could contravene the European Convention on Human Rights, which comes into effect later this year.

'Flawed bill'

Bruce Holder, vicechairman of the CBA, told the BBC: "The Commission for Racial Equality has produced research which shows the bill is flawed in as much as it discriminates against ethnic minorities."

The research showed that ethnic minorities are more likely to opt for trial by jury than whites because they feel they will get a fairer hearing.

Lord Bassam
Lord Bassam: the Bill will go ahead

The CBA feels that denying them that right may contravene the human rights' convention.

Critics of the legislation predict it will face a second defeat in the Lords unless Home Secretary Jack Straw drops the controversial changes which could mean the entire bill may run out of parliamentary time.

It is not yet known if the government will invoke the Parliament Act to force the legislation through the Lords.

'Summer froth'

Lord Bassam told the BBC that the government was determined to press ahead with the bill as well as other measures caught up in a log jam of legislation waiting parliamentary approval.

The House of Lords returns on 27 September, a month earlier than the House of Commons, because of the backlog.

The bill was described by Bob Marshall-Andrews, the Labour MP leading the rebellion as "one of the worst pieces of legislation to come before this House for many years".

But Home Secretary Jack Straw said "it is just, fair and proportionate".

Lord Bassam said speculation that the government would abandon the bill was just "summer froth".

He said removing the right to trial by jury for "minor offences" would curb abuses and ensure that trials were held in the most appropriate court.

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See also:

20 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Peers 'kill' trial reform bill
21 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Straw presses on with jury plans
08 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Straw unmoved by Commons rebellion
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