Judges should sit without juries for criminal trials during lockdown, a former High Court judge has argued. Writing in the Times, Sir Richard Henriques, QC, has backed the radical move, arguing that legislation already allows for judge-only trials where jury tampering is suspected. “Our crown courts cannot remain closed when domestic violence is escalating, prisons are overcrowded with people awaiting trial, fraudsters exploit COVID-19 opportunities and the existing backlog of cases grows ever longer,” he writes.
However the majority of senior judges and lawyers oppose the idea. Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett favours reducing the number of jurors on trials from twelve to seven to enable trials to go ahead. He added that the “use of big venues” such as university lecture halls to conduct crown court trials was “being thought about”.