AFTER PASSING its draconian Terrorism Act at the end of last year, the government is set to clamp down even more on our civil liberties. Ministers plan further restrictions on a defendant's right to choose trial by jury. They want to bring in a new criminal court which could slash the number of jury trials by 70 percent. The government also plans a new youth court with a judge and two magistrates. The move could mean the end of public jury trials for all 16 and 17 year olds.
'The huge loss of jury trials will lead to a higher rate of conviction and therefore more people in custody,' said Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers. 'Half of those put before a jury are acquitted compared with less than 10 percent before magistrates.'
Meanwhile the first people to be rounded up under the government's new 'anti-terrorism' powers were arrested just before Christmas. Immigration officers arrested eight people in London, Birmingham and Luton. The eight men, all of Arab origin, have all been detained without trial. As John Wadham, the director of Liberty, says, 'Imprisoning people without trial remains utterly unjust.'