Trial by jury is ideally suited to determine matters which hinge predominantly on an assessment of credibility and reliability of evidence.

At the very heart of the first trial of Vicky Pryce were questions of credibility and reliability, and therefore it is disquieting that in that trial there arose an imbroglio which necessitated the premature discharge of the jury.

Of course, one must distinguish between a situation in which a jury does not understand its role or how it is meant to reach a decision, and a situation in which a jury finds arriving at a decision difficult because the case is perplexing by reason of its complexity. Apropos of the latter situation, I well remember, during the course of the then notorious and somewhat complicated trial of the directors of the Highland and Islands Pig Farm, my clearly hearing one juror, before leaving the jury box at a pause in the proceedings, say to another juror that arriving at a decision in the case was going to be problematic, and said (I quote): “I don’t know what to make of this case.” The other juror replied (again I quote): “Don’t worry. The judge will tell us in no uncertain terms how to decide the case.” Needless to say, the charge to the jury was of crystal clarity and absolutely faultless, being delivered by that superlative judge the late Lord (Sir John) Cameron.

I am of opinion that, in the first Vicky Pryce trial, the jury was faced with a paucity of evidence and an almost insuperable task. As lay people, the jury in that case appears, by all accounts, to have been doing its level best to reach a just verdict, albeit it transpired that one or more of the jurors was ill-equipped through lack of the requisite relevant knowledge, and perhaps also of want of timely instruction, to understand trial procedure.

The aberration which occurred in the first Vicky Pryce trial ought not to lead to a call for further inroads into our precious institution of trial by jury.

George Lawrence Allen,
Solicitor (formerly Advocate), Edinburgh