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Smith: Pressure defendants to testify

Media Statement For immediate release Friday, 23 January, 2004

Smith: Pressure defendants to testify

While not opposed to the Government suggestion of 11-1 jury verdicts, United Future justice spokesman Murray Smith today said applying pressure on defendants to give evidence would have far more impact on cutting the number of hung juries.

"Quite simply, give the prosecution the right to make adverse inferences from the unwillingness of a defendant to address the charges directly and you would have far fewer hung juries," Mr Smith said.

"This is a more substantial issue than the perception of a rogue or aberrant juror.

"Yes, an accused person can maintain their silence - but their failure to engage in the pursuit of justice can and should count against them.

"The classic case in this regard, in my opinion, would be the John Barlow trials in the mid-1990s which resulted in two hung juries before murder convictions at a third trial. If he had been required to give evidence on pain of it being detrimental to his defence not to do so, I believe he would have been convicted at the first trial," Mr Smith said.

The concept of judge-only trials where juries might be intimidated was, however, fraught with difficulty.

"The downside of this suggestion is that it would be too easy for the police, where they think a judge-only trial has a higher likelihood of a guilty verdict, to manipulate the system," Mr Smith said.

Ends.

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