A crime against humanity

John is doing “jury service” this week. Two days so far sitting in a waiting room, then being dismissed at lunchtime because nothing was happening. What a splendidly productive use of a busy man’s time, not to mention the taxpayer’s money! John is at least fortunate that his day job is with an organisation big enough to take the loss.

Jury service, like tax, is the state taking from its citizens without the option. Unlike taxes, it doesn’t pay for anything productive: rather you’re being coopted to listen to grossly overpaid actors (aka barristers) performing, without the benefit of a show you would want to see. OK, which barrister convinced you? That’ll be the one working for the biggest crook, who knows how to Play the System. If you ever believed The Liar, you’re likely to be convinced by the biggest liar in court, too.

And you’re deprived of your liberty and normal life for an indefinite period: unlike convicted criminals, jurors don’t get time off for good behaviour. Self-employed, or a crucial person in a small business? Tough – just go under, as you cannot service your contracts, and if you’re lucky you can start again before you lose your house at least. A teacher? That’s 30 kids with their education disrupted, unless the school happens to have quite a lot of slack.

This whole jury system is a crime against humanity. So what can one do about it? If you Play the Game and pronounce a verdict based on the show you’ve just seen, you’re letting yourself become complicit in that crime. If you refuse to go when summoned, you commit a criminal offence (though the penalties for it might be less trouble than the service itself). There’s no satisfactory solution.

To cap it all, if you get a real gangster, you and your loved ones might be at significant personal risk if you find against them. And of course they’ll then get any adverse verdict overturned by a higher court without the encumbrance of a jury, on the time-honoured principle of innocent until proven broke.

It seems to me that, so long as the loss of time is bearable, the least bad outcomeis non-cooperation within the law. That means going through the motions, but discounting everything presented to you by those overpaid spin-doctors in court. You have (by law) to give a verdict, and there’s only one verdict in a criminal case:

  • If the accused didn’t do it, they are Not Guilty.
  • If the accused did do it, they are still Not Guilty. That’s the lesser of two evils: it’s an injustice, but one that has to be set against complicity in the far bigger crime of the jury system.

Any exceptions to that? Certainly not when trying a private individual: not even someone like Ian Huntley or Fred and Rosemary West. For a public figure whose crimes are on a global scale? Well, if I were on the jury for The Liar himself, it would be a tough call.

Posted on January 24, 2007, in rants, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. What a load of rubbish!

  2. As the individual about whom this has been written, yes it has all been a frustrating waste of time – today’s defendant decided to plead guilty at the last minute, just like Monday’s, so a lot of taxpayer’s money was expended when the defendant almost certainly knew he (or she?) was going to own up in the end. It’s well known that barristers advise their clients to do this.

    Having said all that, I have a conscience and, if presented with a case involving significant human wickedness, and if I believed that the prosecution case was compelling, I would have no option but to find the defendant guilty. I could not live with myself if I knew I had been party to a murderer or rapist getting off, and I think it would be wholly immoral for anyone else to do such a thing as well.

    My elderly parents’ home was burgled a few years ago, at night and whilst they were inside it, so I know the trauma that criminal behaviour causes to ordinary, innocent people. Letting off the culprits because of some personal dislike of the system is ridiculous. Yes, it’s got lots of imperfections, not least the miserly compensation available for those who lose out financially as a result of jury service, but it’s certainly better than giving villains licence to do what they want without restraint.

    My jury service is inconvenient, I don’t like it, but to call it a “crime against humanity” is absurd.

  3. John, the rant isn’t about you. The fact you’re on it is just a hook to hang a rant on.

    And no, I don’t believe it’s right to let villains off. I want to bang up the b*****s who play Radio 2 outside my window, or block the pavement with parked cars. But depriving a much larger number of innocent people of their normal lives for an indefinite period isn’t an acceptable way to go about it.

  4. Agree with your last point entirely, but can’t agree that the response, if coerced into doing jury service as the current lousy system requires, is to find all and sundry not guilty regardless of the strength of the case and severity of the offence. It might make a point, but it’s hardly a service to the wider community who quite reasonably expect some sort of redress against wrongdoers.

    Incidentally, if you want to bang ’em up for Radio 2, what would you do with players of Radio 1? String ’em up? It’s the only language they understand… (with apologies to Private Eye).

  5. Bravo! I have to say this is an excellent post. I disagree with you on a lot of stuff, being on the left side of the political spectrum, but it’s always shocked me that there isn’t more widespread objection and resistance to this kind of slave-labour conscription. (possibly because there is a significant amount of evasion instead). Crime against humanity is certainly not an excessive term to use.

    Personally I would refuse to serve come what may; knowing I would probably be criminalised for being myself (a somewhat tetchy eccentric) in court, I may as well take a stand on principle; in fact, faced with such a threat, I may well go on the run. I wonder however if they would make someone “serve” who had made clear that they would acquit in any case.

    Have a look at this case BTW:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article2051212.ece
    Pretty clear-cut conscientious objection to jury conscription it seems, and the system is trying to cover up the case. In my view this woman should get the same solidarity as military service refusers.

    Everyday life has no sanctity to the state. I would consider being a liberal or a democrat if I did not see the state over and over affirm its evil through its atrocities.

  6. Phil (Jury Service Sucks) Jones

    Just came across this guy – www . offinia . com – listing valid ways to get out of jury duty. It might be “unconstitutional” but it can’t help to know!!😉

  7. That last link is just an advert for a book (no contents at the site). Leaving it in because the book itself appears somewhat relevant if anyone reading this is interested, but it feels too spammy to link, given that one spam link always attracts more spam.

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