Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Gilty, yr hnr

For the past fortnight, a valiant band of men and women have been struggling to separate teenagers from their mobile phones.

GCSE and A Level rules clearly state that pupils may not take phones into the exam room on penalty of disqualification, a rule which frequently prompts vociferous complaining; teenagers are so attached to their phones that being deprived of them feels like a punishment.

Remember Jamie's Dream School? One of the main complaints was that the pupils would not stop texting long enough to listen to a lesson. And when they leave school, little changes.

Geoffrey Robinson QC told the court in London that one woman in the jury had been in regular contact with her fiance, who sat in the public gallery and hung around the court during the trial.

They sent text messages to each other, even while the juror was in the jury box, with one of the man's messages reading "guilty".

This is the trial of the Mears brothers, whose £30-a-ticket 'Lapland' Winter theme park - complete with a broken ice-rink, dodgy fairy-lights and bedraggled, muddy reindeer - led to 13-month sentences for misleading the public.

I've long had doubts about the jury system; reading the confused ramblings of a year 11 class trying to explain the plot of Macbeth doesn't do much for one's faith in their future ability to make sense of a story, let alone evaluate the guilt or innocence of the protagonists.

And since today's youngsters live in a stream-of-consciousness world where every passing thought - however trivial - is instantly communicated to whoever happens to be listening, the idea of concentrating on the matter in hand is obviously obsolete - an ominous development for the jury system.

And as for rules, should someone, perhaps, have explained to this unimaginative young woman that, while texting during double maths is likely to bring about a detention and confiscation of the phone, the consequences of breaking the rules during a criminal trial are rather more wide-reaching?

A judge at the Court of Appeal appeal in London granted them permission to appeal against their convictions after hearing about alleged juror misconduct during the trial.

So thanks to one silly woman, a huge amount of taxpayers' money will be spent on the lengthy appeals process - cui bono? In this case, definitely the lawyers, who are on to a nice little earner. Surely there's a strong case for requiring jurors to leave their mobile phones at the door.

3 comments:

  1. Another plank in the government's plans to reduce jury trials, perhaps...?

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  2. Simon Callow has just complained bitterly about this in the theatre. Where I go, despite the huge cost of the seats there are still people who use their texting etc. As we stand, often I find myself reading their texts and emails over their shoulders. One can learn a lot about human nature.

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  3. Perhaps, JuliaM; give the juorors enough rope, so to speak...

    Demetrius, hats off to you if you can make sense of what they are saying - though I suppose a theatre audience may send more literate texts that the garbled ungrammatical inanities reported in tales such as this one.

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