A View From Middle England - Conservative with a slight libertarian touch - For Christian charity and traditional belief - Free Enterprise NOT Covert Corporatism

Monday, August 10, 2009

Brummie banana justice

This case of an allegedly stolen banana has made headlines because it involves a banana (always good for a bit of fun) and the fact that the trial cost £20,000. The Crown Prosecution Service thought it money well spent as they felt "it is not the cost of the item that determines a prosecution". They also felt they had the alleged banana napper bang to rights.

What I thought about this case was a bit different from others. I was taken by the remark of the accused James Gallagher who allegedly stole the fruit from an Italian restaurant in Birmingham's Bullring Shopping Centre. He said he had chosen a Crown Court trial because he expected magistrates would have found him guilty. Interesting? Mr.Gallagher hits on matter of considerable importance, I'd say.

Are we to assume that magistrates would just rush through a guilty sentence if he had not elected trial by jury? Do we think that magistrates err on the side of presumed guilt? Are magistrates still of the opinion that prosecuting authorities are word perfect in their detail? Mr.Gallagher was charged with burglary and theft, not shoplifting, presumably as a restaurant is not a shop. But burglary is a serious crime - a prison sentence is always possible. He took his chance with a jury.

Now what do we think of the juries of today? Did they sit there thinking "this is all a complete waste of time"? Are juries made up of people more likely to side with the "ordinary bloke"? The CPS said they had "sufficient evidence and it was in the public interest for the prosecution to proceed." The jury obviously thought differently. Sufficient evidence can mean a lot. It could mean that the CPS thought he was guilty but didn't have the banana to prove it.

If many more take the Crown Court route we could find that the CPS is again in such a position. It tells us that juries are not so keen to convict as magistrates. Magistrates may not mix socially with those before them and may be prone to assume guilt over innocence. Juries on the other hand may identify with the accused. They may think that certain "crimes" are just misdeamenours not worth the time of the court. They may think a lot of things. One thing is certain, the CPS is no longer going to get cosy convictions.


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