[JURIST] A judge on the Court of Criminal Appeals for England and Wales [official website] held Thursday that a court can require a judge-only criminal trial [judgment, PDF] for four men suspected of tampering with juries convened to consider robbery charges against them. The ruling is the first application of a Criminal Justice Act 2003 provision [text], which allows a court to hold a judge-only trial if there is "evidence of a real and present danger" that jury tampering may take place and it is determined that other measures to prevent tampering would be ineffective. Dismissing defense arguments that a criminal trial without a jury would violate Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text], Lord Chief Justice Igor Judge held that overarching principles of justice, the 2003 legislation, and potential burdens on jurors allowed for a compromise of the right:
In this country trial by jury is a hallowed principle of the administration of criminal justice. It is properly identified as a right, available to be exercised by a defendant unless and until the right is amended or circumscribed by express legislation. The constitutional responsibilities of the jury are, however, flouted if "the integrity of an individual juror, and thus of the jury as a whole, is compromised. Such a compromise occurs when any juror, whether because of intimidation, bribery or any other reasons, dishonours or becomes liable to dishonour his or her oath as a juror by allowing anything to undermine or qualify the jurors duty to give a true verdict according to the evidence" ...The law allowing for judge-only trials in both cases of jury tampering and fraud was passed [Guardian backgrounder] in 2003 and came into effect in 2007. It had earlier been rejected [JURIST report] by the House of Lords before undergoing revisions.
[T]he danger of jury tampering and the subversion of the process of trial by jury is very significant. The nature of the risk bears on the protective measures necessary to obviate it. At a lower level of risk than the risk which obtains here, it might be possible to agree ... that the lesser level of protective measures might suffice ... But in our judgment these protective measures do not sufficiently address the extent of the risk.