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ACPOS says jury trial not necessary in serious cases

19 January 2009

The Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland (ACPOS) has called for an end to the automatic right to a jury trial for the most serious crimes.

Senior police officers think juries could be disposed of to relieve the burden on jurors and help avoid misunderstanding of the facts. Their comments are part of a submission to the Scottish Government, which is currently running a consultation into the modernisation of the jury system.

Superintendent John Bow of Fife Constabulary wrote in the submission that in general, all relevant trials should continue to be heard by a jury, but that it should be possible for senior prosecutors to decide, "on a needs-be basis", that where a trial was likely to be lengthy or complicated it could be heard in a different manner.

The consultation has proposed the options of trials taking place before a single judge or panels of judges.

At present in Scotland prosecutors decide whether to bring a case under summary procedure, where a sheriff sitting alone can impose up to 12 months, or solemn procedure, which always involves a jury and is used for all cases where a higher sentence is likely.

Other submissions, such as those from the Law Society of Scotland, the Glasgow Bar Association and sheriffs, have called for the retention of juries. Some argue that there would be further costs in having a panel of judges hear a case.

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