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Thread: The Stephen Lawrence Trial: Politics v Justice?

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    The Stephen Lawrence Trial: Politics v Justice?

    I'm sure a number of our UK based posters (particularly the ones older than myself) may be well aquainted with this lengthy, drawn out terrible business which reached its conclusion in court today with the two accused gentlemen being found guilty for the murder of teenager Stephen Lawrence 18 years ago. I believe that the defendants in this case were guilty, and some form of justice has been served here, but the cost at which it has come doesn't really sit well with me (but more of that later).

    What concerns me primarily, is how politically inspired changes to the criminal justice system have eroded civil liberties. Foremost amongst these have been the diminution of the right to silence and the lifting of the double jeopardy rule. I believe that the decision today means that we will now reap the consequences of the latter.

    It was this particular case and these particular defendants that led to David Blunket's decision to abolish centuries of legal tradition and remove the double jeopardy protection in the Criminal Justice Act. As a result, the defendants here have been convicted and will be condemned on the flimsiest of evidence brought forward in a desperate attempt to apportion blame for an appalling and senseless killing which, under normal circumstances, would have been regarded but tragic but unsolvable.

    I feel very sorry for the Lawrence family. Their grief and sense of injustice would only have been compounded had any other conclusion been reached from this trial. However, now that a conviction has been achieved, there will surely be an appeal and the whole sorry story will be dragged out even further which will only leave a legacy of bitterness and uncertainty.

    As I said before, I do believe that the defendants in question did indeed what they were accused of. But to find them guilty on the basis of forensic evidence which at best (even if it was deemed as reliable) merely puts them at the scene of the crime strikes me as a very dangerous precedent indeed. There is something about this that really puts me at a deep sense of unease.

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    The Wheel is Forever silentstriker's Avatar
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    You guys need a formal written bill of rights.
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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Yeah, I think that's now become painfully obvious. This was part of the Conservative manifesto for the last election, but it seems to have received relatively little mention since. I wonder now if talk of it will be revived.

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    Cricket Web: All-Time Legend Uppercut's Avatar
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    Criminal justice being much less fair and much less effective than it could be because it's too emotive a subject for the public to bother thinking rationally about? Is this new?
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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Perhaps not, but like I say, the erosion of liberties in the name of what can be considered "justice" is very worrying. It's gratifying the "means to and end" logic, the use of which in the context is surely completely inappropriate. If this sort of trend continues it's only a matter of time before things seriously start to go awry.

    I mean, I saw on the BBC website earlier a number of people who are championing the decision as a "victory for justice", have they not realised what it took for "justice" as they term it to be preserved?
    Last edited by sledger; 03-01-2012 at 10:17 AM.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member fredfertang's Avatar
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    You don't get more of a bleeding heart liberal than me when it comes to our criminal law but I have no difficulty with the new double jeopardy rules and in this particular case I have not the slightest doubt but that justice has been done

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    Spanish_Vicente sledger's Avatar
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    Slippery slope though surely? This justice at any cost mentality is something isn't a good thing surely?

    Even if we forget about the double jeopardy rules entirely, the evidence used to secure the conviction is hardly persuasive. Wasn't some really dodgy evidence in the form of film acquired from a bug or hidden camera admitted as well?

    I'll concede that justice probably has been done here, but the cost seems a little too high for my liking.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member fredfertang's Avatar
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    There was some crap evidence, and a certain well known champagne socialist did what appeared at the time to be irreparable damage to the case by ploughing on with that ill-starred private prosecution, but at the end of the day it was the forensics that did for them, and it's for just this sort of situation that the double jeopardy rules were changed - the fact that it helps in cases where leading silks with egos the size of Belgium **** up is purely incidental

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    International Coach HeathDavisSpeed's Avatar
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    I don't have a problem with the removal of double jeopardy. If you're guilty, just because it failed to be proven first time doesn't mean there shouldn't be a second stab at it.

    So, this pair were convicted by a jury, were they? If the evidence is as flimsy as you suggest, sledgeroonie, then surely the jury would have found them not guilty? Or is there a chance the jury were influenced by the emotive nature of the case?
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    The Wheel is Forever silentstriker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeathDavisSpeed View Post
    I don't have a problem with the removal of double jeopardy. If you're guilty, just because it failed to be proven first time doesn't mean there shouldn't be a second stab at it.

    So, this pair were convicted by a jury, were they? If the evidence is as flimsy as you suggest, sledgeroonie, then surely the jury would have found them not guilty? Or is there a chance the jury were influenced by the emotive nature of the case?
    The problem with double jeopardy is misuse by people who might keep giving you a trial until they get a jury they like just because they don't like you. Or simply to keep harassing you for political or other reasons. It could (and still can) easily have been used because of a person's race/sexual orientation, etc to keep harassing them - or at least could have been used as a threat.

    Especially if it's a crime where your life is on the line, you shouldn't have to suffer through that multiple times just because the prosecutor doesn't like you or some mysterious evidence turns up at a later date. You shouldn't have been prosecuted in the first place unless there the prosecutor was convinced he had enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that you were the perpetrator.

    Yes, I can certainly think of cases (and perhaps this was one of them - I don't know anything about it) where guilty men have walked free because of it, but I (and I think many legal theories) subscribe to the fact that it's generally better in a society where a guilty man can walk free due to the burden of evidence that's required, than to have it at a point where innocent men can go to jail (obviously neither is ideal). I think lowering the requirement opens it up to way worse abuse than making it higher.
    Last edited by silentstriker; 03-01-2012 at 02:40 PM.

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    International Coach HeathDavisSpeed's Avatar
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    I assumed that you could only take the people to court a second (or third etc.) time if there was significant new evidence. I don't think you can just have another go at trying exactly the same case. The original trial for these guys was in 1996 I think, so it's taken 15 years to get the additional evidence required to try them again. Seems reasonable to me?

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    The Wheel is Forever silentstriker's Avatar
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    I am of course looking at it from an American perspective, and as sledger and I do on the freedom of speech issue, I'm sure people in the EU have a different perspective. I do think that in general the US bill of rights is pretty close to being dead-on.

    Only thing I would change is perhaps add another amendment which adds a right to personal privacy, and another which would prohibit the government from discriminating based on sexual orientation, religion, race, or gender.

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    Cricket Web Staff Member fredfertang's Avatar
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    We still have a double jeopardy rule, its just that now the higher courts can give permission for a second trial but its a high hurdle for the Prosecution clear - it is designed for cases like this where forensic evidence that couldn't be obtained at the time of the original trial has, thanks to technological advances, become available

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    The Wheel is Forever silentstriker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HeathDavisSpeed View Post
    I assumed that you could only take the people to court a second (or third etc.) time if there was significant new evidence. I don't think you can just have another go at trying exactly the same case. The original trial for these guys was in 1996 I think, so it's taken 15 years to get the additional evidence required to try them again. Seems reasonable to me?
    Is there a jury which decides whether the new evidence is significant enough? I would be against a government official (be it a judge or a prosecutor) deciding whether the government's case is strong enough. I'd be against a jury doing it too but my objection wouldn't be as strong.

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    International Coach HeathDavisSpeed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by silentstriker View Post
    Is there a jury which decides whether the new evidence is significant enough?
    I had no idea. Sound like Fred has answered that one above. Again, sounds reasonable to me.

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