By Democrat reporter
One of Scotland’s top defence lawyers has attacked the Scottish Government’s plans to introduce juryless trials as an “attack on democracy”.
Donald Findlay KC has hit out at the plans mooted by Scotland’s Lord Justice, Lady Dorrian.
The plans have been introduced in a bid to tackle the country’s low rates of convictions for rape and attempted rape.
However, leading figures from Scotland’s courts have unanimously attacked the plan.
Speaking to journalists, human rights lawyer Amer Anwar accused the Scottish Government of “cherry-picking” views to support their plans.
As part of the plans, anyone accused of rape or attempted rape would be tried before a single judge or sheriff who would decide whether or not they are guilty.
The latest statistics show conviction rates for rape and attempted rape were 51 percent compared with 91 percent for all other crimes.
Speaking to legal website Hey Legal, Mr Findlay has berated the pilot initiative, saying it attacks the “freedom” of a civilised society.
He said: “I think it’s important to understand one of the most important freedoms that we enjoy in a civilised society is liberty.
“Your liberty should only be taken from you by the state after due process of law and where you are either remanded to await a trial, and there needs to be good reasons why you need to be kept locked up to await a trial, or you have been convicted by a court.
“For many, many years it has been thought right that the liberty of the individual should only be taken away where that court consists of a judge to deal with the law and a jury to decide upon the facts and assess the evidence.
“Why is that important? Because it’s democracy.”
He continued: “A jury is arguably the only real existing true bastion of democracy because 15 people are chosen at random, with no special qualifications and they bring together a huge experience of life collectively.
“They bring that to bear on the question of whether or not the guilt of an individual is proved.
“If you say that that is not the best system then there are arguments to be had but if you say that one individual is better than 15 jurors then you are striking at democracy.
“You are implying that somehow an individual, who is a qualified lawyer, is better equipped to judge on the guilt or otherwise of the citizens.
“So what that means is members of the public are not up to it, not bright enough, they don’t have enough experience, don’t have enough common sense to serve on the jury and determine these things.
“And if that’s right then that is a direct attack on democracy.
“To try and take away the jury in any situation is actually an attack on democracy and the liberty of every single individual in this country, it is as fundamental as that.”
Top of page: Dumbarton Sheriff and Justice of the Peace courts in Church Street.