In response to our recent Hey legal Exclusive concerning jury directions, Iain McSporran QC has provided further insight based on his own experience and knowledge. His comment is cited in full below:
The first time the written directions were unleashed upon an unsuspecting defence was in the first remote trial conducted in Lawnmarket in which I was involved (indeed, anyone who was paying attention to my Hey Legal talk on that will recall that I made mention of this novelty and wondered aloud where it had come from and to what extent the defence had been consulted).
The answer is that these rather detailed directions were the result of many months work by the Judicial Institute. No input was sought from the Bar or Law Society as I understand it, nor was it thought necessary to give advance warning to practitioners of this by no means unimportant development.
The plan was that every judge at the start of every trial would read verbatim the entirety of the directions which would thereby be incorporated into the jury directions. To describe the practical application of that plan by different Judges as “patchy” would be uncontroversial.
I have no particular difficulty in principle with written directions, indeed I am in favour of them at the end of the trial, but found it very strange that this change was implemented without fanfare or consultation. It may not be too late to address that, but that is for another day. My main concern is that since the written directions were many months in the drafting, revisal and approval one must wonder what prompted this update to them? It would be possible for the uninitiated to think that the words “All that is required for corroboration is…” suggests that there really isn’t very much required, but I am as certain as I can be that this was not the intention of the author.
It would still be interesting to know what prompted that change. I do believe that a united consideration of and response to this development is justified, and am happy to endorse Tommy’s comments, and to be involved in further discussion.
Iain McSporran QC