Pubdate: Thu, 20 May 1999
Date: 05/20/1999
Source: Independent, The (UK)
Author: Dr Chris Payne
Sir: Anyone who has ever attended a magistrates' court will have seen the
magistrates suspiciously and aggressively question the defendant while
falling over themselves to defer to the police before invariably finding for
the prosecution ("Thousands lose right to jury trial", 19 May). To allow
magistrates to try summarily many more of those offences which now go before
a jury will, without doubt, lead to a much higher conviction rate -
possibly, I would guess, as high as 100 per cent.

The Home Secretary's measure is half baked. If it is implemented, it
will soon become obvious that much time and money will be saved if the
formality of an appearance before the magistrates, with its inevitable
conclusion, were to be dispensed with completely.

If Mr Straw were to think the measure through, he would surely come
to the conclusion that it would be much more efficient if convictions
could proceed automatically on the word of a single police officer.

Dr Chris Payne,
Uxbridge, Middlesex