Moses LJ calls for criminal reform

Lord Justice Moses has called for reform of the role of the judge in jury trials.

Delivering this year’s Law Reform Committee lecture “Summing Down the Summing Up: Re-Forming the Criminal Trial” on 23 November at the Inner Temple, Moses LJ said there was a problem in the function of the judge and his role as guide when summing-up. Instead, he said, the jury should be given a list of questions to answer.

This proposal was put forward by Lord Justice Auld in his October 2001 Review of the Criminal Courts.

Moses LJ argued: “Defence counsel should be required to tell the jury what the defence is at the outset. But that does not go nearly far enough ... the factual issues should be debated in court by counsel, resolved by the judge and the issues in the form of questions written down before speeches to the jury.

“The jury will have heard warnings as to how to approach particular types of evidence, when the evidence is called, and can be reminded of those directions in a short note, annexed to the list of witnesses, each of whom will be linked to the issues and questions to which their evidence relates,” he said.

“The reforms are cheap, will save money and be cost effective. A criminal trial costs about £4,300, a day and £7,000 a day at the Old Bailey. Summings-up regularly last a day in trials lasting more than two weeks: there were 389 of such trials in the year to April 2010.

“£4,000 or even £7,000 is an expensive ticket to listen to a replay of the drama delivered in monotone. The judges’ summing-up is a frequent source of appeals against conviction. Conviction appeals cost about £14,000 day.”