The UK Law Gazette reports..
Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC indicated today that legislation to allow trial without jury could be passed within weeks – but the changes would only be temporary.
Buckland told MPs on the justice select committee that operating either-way cases without juries is now under serious discussion, as the backlog of cases forces radical change to the criminal justice system.
He confirmed that 200 extra sites were required to deal with the rising number of cases waiting to be heard, with 10 alternative venues signed off this week. Buckland described trials with just a judge and two magistrates as a ‘last resort’ but said this option would provide an extra 40% capacity. His preferred option, which is to reduce the number of jurors to seven, would increase capacity by only 5-10%. Buckland suggested that a one judge-two magistrates option would apply only to cases where the maximum sentence is two years’ imprisonment.
He confirmed that the government wants to implement one of the two options by September, which would require primary legislation to be brought forward before parliament goes into recess on 21 July.
Buckland also stated that other options are being actively explored including longer operating hours and opening courts at weekends.
He told MPs: ‘I am absolutely duty-bound to look at measures that deliver the capacity we need. Two-thirds capacity isn’t going to cut it – I am going to need at least 100% capacity not just to manage the case load but to get ahead of it as well.’