Stuff reports on the Criminal Procedure (Reform and Modernisation) Bill which “aims to reduce the number of jury trials by raising the threshold from offences punishable by three months' jail, to those punishable by three years”. The headline reads, “Judging Alone Not Real Justice”. I don’t think so.
There are two basic categories of offences and a third that is a hybrid of the first two.
1. Summary Offences – the smaller stuff like: dangerous driving, breach of periodic detention, cannabis supply.
2. Indictable Offences – the big stuff like: rape, murder, arson, supply of class A drugs
3. The hybrid – Summary Offences triable indictably: covering crimes in between.
A Summary Offence means the accused is heard by a judge alone (as opposed to a judge and jury) in the District Court. The hybrid, the Summary Offence triable indictably, means the accused may elect trial by jury. An Indictable Offence means trial by jury for the accused.
I am a lawyer by training. Let me tell you if I was charged with a summary offence triable indictably, and I was innocent, I would definitely elect to have my case heard by a judge alone. If I were guilty I would choose trial by jury. There will be a wealth of precious academic comment from the legal community supporting trial by jury, but, I would wager most lawyers would elect to do the same as me in practice.
Draw your own conclusion.