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An end to single judge trials for serious crimes

By johnboy 12 February 2011 27

simon corbell tweet

Simon Corbell has used the vapid wasteland of twitter to announce he’s removing the option of single judge trials for serious crimes, juries will now be the only option.

There has been a perception in the community that our judges have been a bit hard to convince when it comes to guilt and serious crimes. Something borne out by the enthusiasm of defence lawyers to take that route.

The bill is being tabled on Thursday.

UPDATE: The media release is now out:

“The ACT has the highest rate of election for judge-alone trials in Australia with 56% of cases being heard without a jury, and this is significantly higher than the next closest jurisdiction, South Australia, with 15% heard by judge-alone,” Mr Corbell said.

“The ACT’s rate includes high rates of choice of judge-alone trial in matters involving allegations of a sexual nature, including child pornography, and those involving the death of a person, particularly murder and manslaughter.

“This level of election of judge-alone trials was never intended when the election process was introduced by Attorney General Connolly in 1993.

“At that time the changes were intended to provide the judge-alone trials in matters where pre-trial publicity could prejudice a fair trial or those involving complex and lengthy legal issues.”

The changes introduced by the Government’s Bill would require trials of serious offences like murder, manslaughter, culpable driving occasioning death and sexual offences (including child pornography offences), to be heard before a jury.

“Juries perform an important role in involving citizens in the criminal justice system. The Government’s view is that in relation to the most serious matters, the involvement of juries allows community standards to be better reflected in the criminal justice system,” Mr Corbell said.

Mr Corbell said the Bill would now lay on the table of the Assembly for three months to allow for further consultation with stakeholders on it’s provisions. The Government previously undertook consultation on the proposal through a discussion paper in 2008.

“Some concern has been raised about the impact of the reforms on the timeliness of matters being heard in the Supreme Court. The Government is confident that the package of reforms currently before the Assembly to see more matters heard before the Magistrates Court will address that issue,” Mr Corbell said.

“I do not doubt that some stakeholders will raise objections to these proposals. Nevertheless the Government believes that criminal justice can only be further strengthened by reaffirming the importance of jury trials for serious criminal matters.”

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27 Responses to
An end to single judge trials for serious crimes
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cleo 1:36 am 20 Feb 11

Heavs # 22

Try nearly three years to wait for trial now, and many more months for verdict, and not having a date, but 24 or 48 hours notice.

cranky 7:58 pm 19 Feb 11

Having read the forgoing comments, it dawns that my problem with the local system is not do much with the judicial decisions in the big cases, but the lack of penalty in the smaller ones.

Yes, I’m puzzled by the dream run the CRK gets. I suspect a jury would just about demand life by now.

Other recent murder cases I am happy to go along with the judge. He knows more about it than I.

The lack of meaningful penalty for those convicted of serious, but not fatal, crimes really grates. The inexhaustible granting of bail is another worry. I realise juries are not involved.

There does appear to be a disconnect between Judges and public opinion on the penalties handed down to repeat offenders in the ACT. Yes, juries add a whole level of complication to trials, but how else do we get through to Judges what the public regard as justice?

Not 7:02 pm 19 Feb 11

We prefer judges because they do not feel community pressure and victims groups. Most people still think that you go to court to be recognized for your suffering and where the bad guys get taken away to be shot. This extends to the jury. At least with Judge alone you know lawyers cannot exploit emotions and manipulate. I think justice is more likely to be done without an Australian Idol Jury. But for the record as I suspect I know where this is coming from, more jury’s sitting on serious crimes does nothing to the conviction rate. Period.

Tooks 11:04 am 14 Feb 11

JustThinking said :

Tooks said :

What in particular do you think needs to be ‘fixed’? Bear in mind that the rate of offences proven in court runs at about 85%

Rubbish! The 85% conviction rate isn’t because they PROVE anything. The police/courts BARGAIN with the ‘criminal’ to obtain a GUILTY plea. Hence, no need to prove.
Charging repeat serious offenders with 10 counts then offering to drop 5 of the more serious counts if they plead GUILTY to the 5 lesser counts isn’t proving anything.
Or offering them fewer charges if they dob in someone else.

Serious charges/serious offenders should not have their case decided by one person.
If you are attacked would you like your case to be put before one person, who has *yawn* already heard 20 similar cases this mornng and is a bit *yawn* tired now OR a bunch of 12 people who walk the same streets as you??

You clearly have no idea how the system works, do you?

Tooks 11:01 am 14 Feb 11

harley said :

Tooks said :

What in particular do you think needs to be ‘fixed’? Bear in mind that the rate of offences proven in court runs at about 85%

I accept that the first is minor compared with the cases that might go to jury, but in these quick results there is only one success mentioned for the DPP. There is more bad press going back further.

That’s nice, but you didn’t answer my question. I asked what in particular you wanted to change about DPP and police evidence procedures. Which procedures would you like to see changed and why?

Heavs 9:00 am 14 Feb 11

cleo said :

“At that time the changes were intended to provide the judge-alone trials in matters where pretrial publicity could prejudice a fair trial or those involving complex and lengthy legal issues.”

How about lengthy waits for the victims families who have lost a loved one to murder, they still wait if judge alone trial, if jury involved the wait at most is one week, and then questions would be asked why it took too long, and the trial doesn’t go the full length as was told, but the judge reading statements, and the process taking more than two months, which is the legal time only. The judge has the say so if he disagrees with the criminal who wants judge alone trial, it all comes down to money.

What about the lengthy wait there will now be to even GET a trial date. There are only three court rooms which are set up to house jury trials. The current wait for a jury trial is already over 12 months. If every serious crime has to be heard by a jury I can only imagine what the delay from charged to trial is going to be.

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