Magazine article The Spectator

Banned Wagon

Magazine article The Spectator

Banned Wagon

Article excerpt

A weekly survey of the things our rulers want to prohibit

CONCERNS are often raised about the brevity of the prison sentences served by some serious criminals. But at least the government has moved to ensure that one irresponsible group of people will henceforth be deprived of their freedom: middle-class jury-dodgers. The Home Secretary has announced that no one will be able any longer to sneak off jury service on the pretext that they have something more pressing to do; everyone will have to serve, even judges.

The idea of civic service is a good one, and the concept of a jury made up of 12 randomly picked citizens is central to our system of justice. But one has to ask: who is really being punished - the criminal or the poor individual snatched by the state and frogmarched to a courtroom in order to convict him?

There is a very good reason why many middle-class folk are desperate to avoid jury service: they have businesses to run, and have no one who can cover for them during two weeks' enforced absence. …

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