Adopting a more user-friendly process

Solicitor Chris Hutchings of media law specialist firm M Law said:
“I would be very reluctant to see the role of a jury undermined or
abolished.

“Libel actions are unique. They deal with people’s
reputations and in many ways a jury of ordinary people should be the
ideal to decide them with a sensible and down-to-earth approach.

“However,
I think there is an argument for procedures to be reviewed and for the
way these actions are run to be made more user-friendly for juries. I
do, for instance, think it is vital that they should not be overwhelmed
by the list of questions presented to them.

“This said, there is
obviously a strong argument for some cases which involve very complex
issues – though I would not have considered the Kewell case, from what
I have read of the facts, to be one of them – to be heard by a judge.

“Normally in such cases the need for such a course is fairly obvious and the parties both agree that is what should happen.”

Paul
Gilbert, a solicitor in the media section of Finers Stephens Innocent,
said: “The right to a jury trial in defamation proceedings has been
around for some considerable time. To take it away would be a
significant step.

“I would have hesitation in saying you should
do away with juries. It is open for the parties, as George Galloway
did, to choose to have a judge sitting on his own.

“I do think
that the questions sound complex here. When I was involved in criminal
case prosecution and fraud cases we were told to keep the questions
simple. The same, I am sure, applies to a defamation trial.”

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