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Indictable Offences: Crown Court Trial Election

Volume 592: debated on Tuesday 28 July 1998

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asked Her Majesty's Government:Whether they will publish a consultation paper on the question whether defendants in either-way cases should continue to be able to elect Crown Court trial. [HL3128]

In the consultation exercise on the report of the Review of Delay in the Criminal Justice System last year, the responses to its recommendation that defendants in either-way cases should no longer be able to decide to elect Crown Court trial demonstrated sufficient support to warrant further consideration. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary therefore announced that the Government would look at the proposal in longer time with a view to publishing a separate consultation paper on it.We are publishing such a paper today. It describes the current arrangements whereby defendants can be tried summarily for indictable offences only with their consent, and discusses two possible options for change: the abolition of election, as recommended by both the Review of Delay and the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, and reclassification of minor theft, which is often put forward as an alternative. The paper is concerned not with the merits of jury trial, but only with whether defendants should be able to choose to be tried by a jury in cases which magistrates have indicated that they would be content to hear. In forming a view on this question, the Government will take account of responses to the paper, which are invited by the end of September.