Monday, 9 July 2012

The Truth, The Whole Truth

Sunday 8 July 2012 20.00 BST

Clive Stafford Smith: 'The jury system in this country is utter insanity'

"The lawyer and founder of Reprieve on defending clients on death row, why the whole justice system is flawed ...

"The jury system in this country is utter insanity, because you're not allowed to talk to jurors before or after the trial. There's no way of knowing if they did their job properly. And the idea that the defence has to rely on the police for the investigation? Total insanity. I've never met a defence lawyer here who has done any factual investigation for themselves. Total insanity. And the whole notion of a barrister – that he shouldn't have an emotional relationship with his client? Insanity. You cannot represent someone, and meaningfully put them across to the jury, if you don't have a relationship with them."

Britain's adoption of American-style victim impact statements has only made matters worse, he argues. "The victims' families have been told their catharsis is going to come from punishment. And it's just cruel, because it doesn't. They just get exploited. I think that's probably the area in which we've been most unkind to victims."

Our system is less disastrous than the US's in just one crucial respect: "Our results are not as catastrophic, because we don't kill people."

Opposing him are police and prosecutors whose professional careers – and, Stafford Smith would argue, moral sanity – depends upon an implacable belief that no defendant could conceivably be innocent. There is a common view that the justice system is skewed in favour of the defendant, but nothing, he says, could be further from the truth."

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