An Open Letter to Cheryl Thomas Professor of Judicial Studies at University College London In Respect of the British Jury System

Subject: An Open Letter to Cheryl Thomas Professor of Judicial Studies at University College London In Respect of the British Jury System
From: Nikolas Berkenstein
Date: 22 Feb 2013

Dear Prof. Thomas

I read with astonishment your arrogant and condescending references to the jury in the Vicky Pryce trial in the last day or two. As Britain’s alleged leading expert on juries, you staunchly defended the country’s trial system following the “fundamental deficits of understanding” that saw the jurors in the Vicky Pryce trial discharged by the judge. You also said “We need to be extremely careful about drawing any conclusions about the jury system as a whole from one very exceptional jury. We have a system that is incredibly fair. Almost everyone is eligible for jury service and must serve. Our research showed that juries chosen from such a representative group of people are systematically fair.”

So you defend the system that provides you and other old middle and upper class privileged people with a great living, while calling people who may not have had the upbringing and silver spoon that you had, as “exceptional”. Special needs perhaps? Why not have an IQ and background test for all jurors to make sure they are all of the right sort, and have passed as many exams as you have?
So this was a just a one-off jury made of exceptionally dim people was it? I have served on juries, and know that many people on juries struggle to understand what is required of them. The training is negligible and a jury is “instructed” by someone who they can’t relate to. You are brow-beaten into saying that you understand what’s going on, or face the wrath of fellow jurors and the establishment for having to find a fresh jury. If understanding British law is so easy for a jury, then why are judges paid so much? Why are decisions overturned so often in higher courts and in the European Court? Why are you a Professor of law? It’s a piece of cake isn’t it? And if you don’t understand it, for God’s sake don’t say so, or you’ll be named, blamed, shamed and humiliated by those like you earning a great crust from keeping things as they are.

What happened within my jury was that a number of people on it pretended that they knew what was going on, rather than be ridiculed and lose their allowances for travel and subsistence, and so blindly followed the loudest voice in the retiring room. That’s British justice? Oh come on Professor. Let’s just make it out it’s all ok, the status quo continues, and the poor juror carries on with a pat on the back from you and yours, because it’s too painful for you to admit that there have been miscarriages of justice caused by ignorance of the law, lack of clear instruction, fear of persecution, and peer pressure. When was the last time you were in a jury room to listen to the debate? Do you have any idea what goes on?

The jury that asked questions did the right thing. It may be that one person on that jury wanted to check something from the judge. All the judge had to do was explain and ask them to return to give a verdict. But no, it’s time to expose the fact that the class system is alive and well and stinking in British Courts in 2013.

As a Professor and an expert, why not do something about this, which is just the tip of the iceberg, don’t follow the be-wigged pack, but carve out a different path that will uncover the problems that lie in the jury system. It is not all well. And if you think that, then you are “a ass, a idiot”, as it says in Charles Dickens’ “Oliver”.