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Old 25th Oct 2004, 16:33   #1
bakunin_the_cat
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Default Protecting the victim or skewing justice?

I found out today that the government is planning to change the legal system in England and Wales to make juries have access to someone's criminal record instead of just the facts pertaining to a case as they do now and have done for hundreds of years.

The government clearly hopes that less people who are guilty will slip through the net. And if it means there are less sex attacks on children then great. The trouble is doesn't this system skew justice? People who have a record may be judged guilty more on their history than on the facts of the case.

Also, as the tabloids rarely mention when they're screaming about soft justice is that if innocent people are convicted then that means the real perpetrators are still out on the street, and are free to commit more crime.
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Old 26th Oct 2004, 12:01   #2
gil
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This is a difficult one. On the one hand, the police and CPS who charged the accused, and the defence team all know the accused's history, and it must be very frustrating to know that this dirtbag has a record as long as your arm and is still getting away with what is probably a repeat offence.

On the other hand, you don't want some poor sod who's made a mistake in the past finishing up with lots of jail time when he is actually innocent because his record looks bad.

My solution would be to choose a number. Say 2 or 3 or 4. And if the accused has a record of <number> relevant offences, then it's valid to tell the jury.
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Old 27th Oct 2004, 11:45   #3
bakunin_the_cat
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Quote:
My solution would be to choose a number. Say 2 or 3 or 4. And if the accused has a record of <number> relevant offences, then it's valid to tell the jury.
As I understand it, this is going to be pretty much their approach as well, though this still makes me uneasy. Given the wealth of forensic evidence available these days, you'd think it would be possible to try a case purely on the facts, rather than relying on dodgy probabilities and previous record.

Not that I'm naive enough to think repeat crimes don't happen, or that people who have committed a certain type of crime in the past aren't likely to do similar crimes in the future, but this shouldn't be more than a starting point, that gets an investigation going until harder evidence can be unearthed. IMHO it shouldn't become the main case in itself, otherwise those who have made mistakes in the past and served their sentences will spend the rest of their lives paying for them, which isn't exactly going to make them want to reform. Society itself tends to do this anyway but justice is supposed to be blind and impartial.

Having said all this, it's easy to be idealistic when you're not personally involved in something. If (hypothetically) a rapist with a long record was released because there wasn't enough hard evidence to keep them, then went onto rape a member of my family, I'd be furious.
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