Proposed Reform Of Fraud Trials

Author:Ms Kate Hurford
Profession:Herbert Smith

An independent review of the criminal Courts of England and Wales by Lord Justice Auld, a senior Appeal Court judge, was published in October 2001. The Auld Review makes several recommendations, some controversial, for reforming the practices and procedures of, and the rules of evidence applied by, the criminal Courts at every level. The aims of the Review include speeding up justice and reducing the long delay between arrest, charging and establishing guilt or innocence.

One of the key recommendations of the Review is that serious and complex fraud cases should be tried by a judge sitting alone or with specialist lay members drawn from a panel established by the Lord Chancellor, instead of a jury. This recommendation arises out of special factors posed by fraud cases which include: the increasing sophistication and complication of commercial and international fraud which make it difficult for juries to understand the evidence; the increasing length of fraud cases, which intrude on jurors' working and home lives and the burden and strain of such long and complex cases on the defendants.

This proposal, together with other recommendations in the Review which limit the right to trial by a judge and jury, has been heavily criticised by those who believe that a jury trial is 'the corner-stone' of the English criminal justice system. In the Auld Review...

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