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UK Commons passes bill allowing complex fraud trials without juries

[JURIST] The UK House of Commons [official website] passed the Fraud (Trials Without a Jury) Bill [PDF text; backgrounder] 281-246 on its third reading Thursday, sending the bill to the House of Lords [official website]. The proposed bill will allow defendants in serious and complex fraud cases to be tried before a single High Court judge, subject to the approval of the Lord Chief Justice [official backgrounder]. The bill, introduced by Home Secretary John Reid [official profile; BBC profile] in November, is expected to face heavy opposition in the upper chamber.

The House of Lords defeated [JURIST report] a similar proposal in 2003, insisting on the value and historic tradition of the right to trial by jury. If the current bill is rejected by the Lords, the House of Commons has the option of passing the bill in the next session, which will then bypass the House of the Lords for the formality of Royal Assent. In June 2005, British Attorney General Lord Peter Goldsmith announced the latest government plan to abolish jury trials in complicated fraud cases [JURIST report] following the collapse of a fraud trial [Guardian report] earlier in the year, which was partly attributed to jury problems. BBC News has more.

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