Colston Four verdict: Lord Sumption tells LBC he doesn't particularly admire jury system

6 January 2022, 22:39 | Updated: 6 January 2022, 22:49

Lord Sumption tells LBC he doesn't particularly admire jury system
Lord Sumption tells LBC he doesn't particularly admire jury system. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Lord Jonathan Sumption has told LBC that he does not particularly admire the jury system.

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His comments have come after four people were cleared over toppling a statue of slave trader Edward Colston.

LBC's Tom Swarbrick asked the former UK Supreme Court Justice whether the jury's verdict on the Colston Four set a precedent for similar cases.

In response, Lord Sumption said juries were known to have acquitted people who were plainly guilty in political cases "simply because they sympathise with them", suggesting that "it undermines the rule of law and dishonours the jurors oath".

Tom went on to ask what it said about the jury system itself.

Lord Sumption said: "Unfortunately, however much you admire the jury system - I don't particularly but most people do - you have to put up with the occasional case in which it goes wrong as well as the many cases when it goes right.

Read more: Colston statue: 'You can't edit history like your Wikipedia entry', Boris Johnson says

Read more: Colston Four say 'we rectified history' as they're cleared over statue toppling

When pushed on why he was against the process, he said: "I don't think that people should ever be convicted and sent to prison by a body of people that doesn't have to give its reasons.

"That means, first of all, that you don't know the reason why you've been convicted and secondly it means you can't have a proper appeal system because the appeal courts don't know why the jury reached the conclusion that they did.

"Thirdly, it means that you have to have all sorts of technical rules and evidence to prevent prejudicial material going before the jury - which may be highly relevant - because of the concern that they may be misled against the defendant by doing it."

However, Lord Sumption told Tom that he did not believe that the system should be abolished.

"Although I think that it produces very anomalous results, the fact is the criminal justice system has got to have public support," he said. "And the public is very much in favour of the jury system and to me that is conclusive."

It comes after Boris Johnson said people cannot "go around seeking retrospectively to change our history", following the jury's decision.

The four defendants accused of pulling down slave trader Edward Colston's statue were cleared on Wednesday, claiming to have "rectified history".

They had been charged for toppling the Bristol monument during a Black Lives Matter protest in June 2020.