Having grown up in England, as well as having been so exposed to American culture, the belief that juries equal justice was, at one time, deep-seated in me. But experience and observation over the years changed my mind. I've only just read this article by Simon Jenkins in The Times from last week in which he argued that we abandon the jury system in British courts, and I couldn't agree more.
I once did jury service and was left deeply sceptical that justice was at all served by it, and Jenkins' complaints brought my own reservations back to mind. It seems to me that a jury that is a representative cross-section of British society will contain on average only one or two members with the requisite skills to do proper justice to the complexity of their task, and that's not good for justice. I once thought that maybe jurors should have to pass aptitude tests or have a minimum IQ of whatever or be graduates with at least a 2:1, but that system wouldn't be practical at all.
Having spoken to Europeans who seem to have sufficient confidence in the fairness of their criminal-justice system despite the absence of juries and who are in fact amazed we still let lay-people judge complex legal cases, I have for some years been a convert to what Jenkins proposes:
The time has come to professionalise justice. Whether the continental investigatory system is adopted or the Anglo-American adversarial system retained, “judgment” should be in the hands of magistrates and judges, maybe with professional or even lay assessors. Their decisions are subject to oversight and appeal, and to the law of Parliament. They can still hear the cry of the public outside the courtroom. But amateurism and guesswork, even if “usually got right”, are not good enough. Judges are paid to judge. They should pull themselves together and do the job.
I'm no legal theorist, so I hope his and my belief that juries should be scrapped doesn't conflict with still believing that most of the common-law system is worth retaining. One further point - the Belmarsh prisoners' dilemma is being exacerbated by the Crown having to and being unwilling to present secret evidence before a jury.