Lawyer compares Nicola Sturgeon’s rape jury trial ideas to Hitler’s court

Lawyer compares Nicola Sturgeon’s rape jury trial ideas to Hitler’s court

Scotland’s leading female attorney compared Nicola Sturgeon’s proposal to eliminate jury trials in rape cases to Hitler’s courts, expressing concern that the measure could damage democracy.

Frances McMenamin KC, drew comparisons with judge-only trials and regimes such as China
Concerned that some jurors have outmoded attitudes about accused victims, resulting in low conviction rates, ministers are examining the proposal to remove jury proceedings in rape cases.

But a prominent lawyer and government adviser worries Scotland’s legal system is on the cusp of a mistaken and catastrophic misstep if proposals for judge-only trials proceed.

Frances McMenamin KC expressed severe worry on the plans and highlighted parallels between judge-only trials and dictatorships such as China. She even compared the measures to Hitler, who eliminated jury trials and established the People’s Court in 1933.

McMenamin, the most senior woman at the Scottish Bar, urged more to be done to defend women called to testify in distressing trials and warned of the corrosive effect of the relatively low compensation of criminal attorneys in the legal profession on the administration of justice.Scotland's court system, already under strain before the pandemic, is struggling with huge backlogs caused by lockdown. Pictured is Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister

Frances McMenamin, KC, highlighted parallels between judge-only trials and dictatorships such as China.

Already overburdened prior to the pandemic, Scotland’s justice system is suffering with massive backlogs created by lockdown. Pictured is Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland.

She told The Sunday Post that China’s new national security law, which aims to stifle Hong Kong’s democracy movement, abolishes jury trials.

Scotland should not pursue a similarity to China by eliminating the current jury system for exclusively sexual offense trials.

'Jury service gives a central role to the public in the criminal justice system, of which serious sex offence cases form no small part in Scotland,' McMenamin said

She continued, “Even worse, Scotland shouldn’t be compared to Hitler, who in 1933, in reaction to his discontent with the Reichstag fire trial, in which all but one of the guilty were acquitted, abolished jury trials and established the People’s Court.”

This was a special court established outside the constitutional framework of law, where the president nearly invariably sided with the prosecution and no presumption of innocent existed.

McMenamin, a member of the Governance Group of the Scottish Government, stated, “Democracy is more than just parliamentary and municipal elections.” Participation in democracy is broader than this.

Jury service ensures that the citizen, who is not required to vote but must respond to a jury summons, is involved in the delivery of justice.

“The removal of juries in cases involving sexual offenses affects not only the rights of any accused charged with such an offense, but also the rights of every citizen in Scotland.

“Jury service gives the public a central role in the criminal justice system, in which serious sex offense cases play a significant role in Scotland.

Even countries not historically associated with democratic traditions and institutions, such as Argentina and Bulgaria, are adopting a jury system.

McMenamin stated, “Jury service gives the public a central role in the criminal justice system, of which serious sex offense cases play a significant role in Scotland.”

McMenamin is concerned that a lack of defense counsel will increasingly impede the progress of the court system in Scotland, which was already strained prior to the pandemic.

According to The Telegraph, the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain supported the idea of a pilot program, arguing that ‘radical’ action was required to help clear a backlog of cases that was ‘disproportionately’ harming women and girls.

As part of its vision for justice, the Scottish Government wishes to strengthen the rights and enhance the experiences of those involved in the justice system, particularly women and children, according to a Scottish Government spokesman.

“We are continuing to investigate the proposal for single-judge trials in rape cases, in accordance with our commitment to give serious consideration to all of the recommendations made by Lady Dorrian’s Review of the Management of Sexual Offence Cases.

This is being done with the assistance of justice partners, including the Faculty of Advocates.

 

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