Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Friday, 1 May 2009


For the past two weeks I have been on Jury Service in Southwark Crown Court, London. The whole process has been fascinating even though it has cost me two Fridays in the constituency, a significant loss for me, if nobody else.

Until a few years ago judges and MPs were excluded from jury service but the law was changed. I cannot now remember whether I voted for or against that change, but at the beginning of last week as I shuffled into the giant holding pen with another 150 potential jurors from all kinds of backgrounds, I was cursing the change of law.

They had warned us that there would be a lot of hanging around and they did not disappoint!

I was one of several who were put forward for a 16 week trial and we were warned that only a substantial reason would enable us to escape that ballot. Panic! I suggested that as I represent 70,000 people at Westminster it would be unfair on them to be without representation for four months and happily this seemed to be readily accepted. Back to the holding pen to await further developments.

At 4pm last Monday I was sworn in with 11 others to try a fascinating assault case which ran until Friday afternoon. At the end of two hours hot debate we had managed to agree on a verdict and delivered it in court. This week another stabbing case. London was obviously not a good place to be last autumn.

Apart from the frustrating delays and down times, and the bumbling performance of the prosecution, I have enjoyed the whole experience and recommend it should the envelope drop onto your letterbox summonsing you to attend the court. A lively sense of camaraderie was developed between the twelve of us.

It was a satisfying feeling at the end of the case to know that we the jury, we the people, we the common-folk selected at random, not the experts, or the bureaucrats or even the lawyers, exclusively made the decision. Each one of us took the responsibility seriously and we did our utmost to get to the truth and do the right thing.

Some people want to scrap juries altogether claiming them to be anarchic. I have been reinforced in my view that they are important and should remain a crucial part of our justice system. Trust the people and they will rarely let you down.

posted by Gary @ 08:41