Let Juries Hear More Evidence, Says Met Boss

Article excerpt

One of Britain's most senior police officers has said that witnesses feel so "mucked about" by the court system that they are refusing to attend court again and give evidence in future trials.

Ian Blair, the deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said it was "awful" that witnesses were restricted in the evidence they could present to jurors.

He called on judges to allow juries as much access as possible to the previous convictions of defendants, even during rape trials.

"We need inclusivity of evidence - if the jury is the light by which freedom shines why don't we tell them the truth and allow them as adults to weigh that truth?" Mr Blair said in an interview with the Independent on Sunday.

David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, has drawn up new laws that would allow judges in some circumstances to tell jurors about previous convictions as well as allowing people to be tried more than once for the same crime. But these moves have been condemned by human rights organisations, MPs and legal experts on the grounds that they will undermine the right of defendants to a fair trial by prejudicing their case.

This concern is backed by a study carried out by Birmingham University which showed that juries are biased by learning of previous convictions for similar offences. …