HC Deb 12 November 1975 vol 899 cc1527-8
43. Mr. Fairbairn

asked the Lord Advocate whether he supports the recommendation of the Thomson Committee that Scottish criminal juries should be reduced to the size of English criminal juries.

The Lord Advocate

The recommendation of the Thomson Committee that Scottish criminal juries should be reduced to 12 was associated with proposals that the three verdicts and the simple majority should be retained. This view was reached after hearing evidence from witnesses with great knowledge and experience in this field not all of whom agreed. Consultations with interested bodies and organisations will now be held, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I will reserve our own judgment on this point until these are completed.

Mr. Fairbairn

Although I appreciate the Lord Advocate's answer, may I ask whether he is aware that it might appear to those of us who can count that a simple majority is difficult to achieved if there is an even number on the jury? Can the Lord Advocate give any sensible reason why we should depart from 15 on a jury, which has been such a successful number compared with 12 in England, which has proved infinitely less desirable?

The Lord Advocate

I do not know whether the hon. and learned Gentleman regards a saving in public expenditure as a factor which should be taken into account, but I certainly do.

As to his comments about arithmetic, I should have thought that he was as capable of doing arithmetic as any other person. It is surely obvious that if a jury is equally divided, there is no simple majority.

Mr. Buchan

Would the Lord Advocate agree that there are aspects of this question which bear strongly on the freedom and liberty of the subject? Apart from any other inner discussion that the Lord Advocate may have with the legal profession, is it not surely necessary to have a very early meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee to discuss some of these wider implications?

The Lord Advocate

I agree. It is right to say that the Thomson Committee was an extremely far-sighted committee and that many of its recommendations are controversial. I hope that there will be constructive controversy.