The Guardian. It would be ridiculous to argue that savings are not possible given that the Ministry's overall annual budget is £9bn. Yet cuts in the wrong areas may well have major long term implications and may turn out to be false economies.
The Judges seem to have got on to their very high horses when it comes to the matter of allowing people to serve as jurors over the age of 70 - The Guardian 10th August. There are thousands of fit and bright septagenarians who would be perfectly able to do civic duty as jurors and they might even be better able to sit on lengthier cases. Judges and magistrates have to retire at 70. There may be a case for some increase in that age - 72 or 75? However, I don't see serving as a juror as the same thing as holding a judicial office. There needs to be a retirement age for office holders in order for the system to be able to bring in new people.
The New Scientist has published a very interesting article about the use of DNA evidence in criminal cases - see here. It is not necessarily anything like as infallible as many people think and what can be presented to courts as "gospel" is often little more than an interpretation. Often, insufficient attention is given to how forensic evidence is presented and possible weaknesses are addressed inadequately in some cases. [See the case of Hoey in the Crown Court of Northern Ireland where Weir J considered DNA evidence].
The Billie Jo-Jenkins murder is again in the news. Her foster carer Sion Jenkins was refused compensation for having served 6 years in prison for her murder prior to him appealing in 2004. The Court of Appeal ordered a retrial. In fact there were two retrials and, on both occasions, the jury was unable to reach a majority verdict. The Independent 2006 covered the formal acquittal of Sion Jenkins.
Compensation is payable for "miscarriages of justice" but it has to be shown beyond a reasonable doubt that there has been such a miscarriage - see Criminal Justice Act 1988 s.133 (as originally enacted). When an application is made for compensation it is for the Secretary of State to decide whether there has been a miscarriage and, if the decision is in favour of compensation, the amount is determined by an assessor - (see CJA 1988 Schedule 12). Given the history of the case - (appeal ordering a retrial and two undecided juries) - it is not possible to say beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a miscarriage of justice. However, the case has an uneasy feeling about it. When a retrial was ordered, the State was not able to secure a conviction by proving the case against Sion Jenkins beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, there were undecided juries. Is it right that the formal acquittal does not have the same status as an acquittal by the jury or a quashing of a conviction by the Court of Appeal (with no retrial ordered)?
Addendum - 15th August: The Guardian - Sion Jenkins: the Home Office decides that "not guilty" is different from "innocent"
Addendum - 20th August: The Guardian - Sion Jenkins: "I don't want sympathy from anyone" Sion Jenkins tells of his experiences in prison and refers to the process relating to compensation.