Thoughts on South African and international politics and culture

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Blair stumbles through the courts
Tony Blair has waded into the liberties of the courts by announcing plans whereby judges in child abuse and trials would be able to order that a broad range of earlier convictions be disclosed to jurors. In other prosecutions, juries will be told about previous convictions if they are similar to the charges being heard.

In my opinion, this is a serious breach of civil liberties and is not one the British government should be interfering with. Every case has to be dealt with on its merits, and it is incredibly prejudicial for a jury to be told of previous convictions, with the inherent result that you try defendants for previous crimes. In addition, there results a situation where the prosecution can set up "patsies" for the crimes in question, where police can "round up the usual suspects" and harass anybody with a previous conviction. It simply makes it too easy for police and the prosecution to make a weak case stick, thus undermining the presumed innocence of the defendant and weakening the strength of their justice system.