Covid-19 has led to a growing backlog of cases waiting to be dealt with by crown courts. Why are juries so important?
Before Covid-19 struck, there were 37,500 cases waiting to be dealt with by the crown courts. Since the pandemic halted jury trials in March, that backlog has risen to more than 41,000. Restricting the right to trial by jury could be the last resort of the government to reduce the growing backlog of cases.
A limited number of jury trials have started again, but the need for social distancing means that many courtrooms are not large enough for jury trials to be conducted safely. The lord chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, and the lord chief justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, have both indicated their willingness to temporarily replace jury trials with trial by a judge and two lay magistrates, for defendants charged with either-way offences (those that can be heard in a magistrates or crown court).