Following the Labor Party’s overwhelming victory in recent parliamentary elections, British Prime Minister Tony Blair recently vowed to focus his second term on overturning the rights of British citizens that, in some cases, go back almost a millennia. Ironically, Blair cast his authoritarian views as defending the individual.
The most dangerous changes that Blair backs are fundamental reforms to the British judicial system. Specifically, the Labor Party wants to eliminate the right to a trial by jury for some crimes, such as burglary, and actually wants to eliminate the principal of double jeopardy, which has been part of the British legal system since the 12th century.
Under the proposed revisions to the law, a person who has been found innocent of murder by a jury could later be retried for the same crime if new evidence emerges. There are indications that Blair would like to see the change apply retroactively. Great Britain has been scandalized recently by people who were found innocent of murder only to write books or make media appearances admitting that they had, in fact, committed the crime with which they were charged.
The proposed elimination of a jury trial for some crimes is largely a cost-saving measure. The government claims that the cost of trials for lower level crimes — which often result in plea bargains midway through the trials — is simply costing too much.
Blair takes a liberty on rights. George Jones, The Daily Telegraph (London), June 21, 2001.