Lay juries in fraud trials could become history

Accountants and other financial experts could be called in to help adjudicate on complex fraud trials.

Home Office minister Alun Michael is considering scrapping the current jury trial in favour of four replacement options, including:

– using special juries that have been selected either for qualifications or aptitude;

– using a trained judge or panel of judges with the assistance of expert assessors;

– conducting a tribunal of a judge sitting with specially qualified lay members; or

– having a single judge sorting out the facts and technicalities of a case before calling a jury to decide key questions based on his summing up.

Accountants could play a role in all of the first three options.

Michael, who has put the idea out to consultation in a document ‘Juries in serious fraud trials’, said he had an open mind, but admitted the failure of a number of high-profile fraud trials recently had highlighted ‘continuing difficulties with the current system’ and had made a case for change.

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