Pubdate: Sun, 19 Mar 2000
Source: East Anglian Daily Times (UK)
Contact:  Don Barnard



The case of Mr Yates and his 40 cannabis plants raises the issue of trial by
jury, and its threatened status under measures proposed by the Home
Secretary Jack Straw.

In the case of Mr Yates the jury found the defendant not guilty of
cultivation of cannabis although the facts were not in dispute, the trial
judge describing his medicinally-motivated marijuana-growing as "potentially
a case of necessity."

In finding Mr Yates not guilty the jury exercised its right to reach a
conclusion in the face of the evidence - in effect, questioning the justice
of the law itself. This right has been the prerogative of juries for
centuries going back to the time of the Magna Carta, and is an essential
element of our democracy.

Mr Straw seeks to deny the public this basic constitutional right, by
abolishing the jury trial for some 'minor' offences including shoplifting
and drugs offences - cases just like Mr Yates's.

Secondly: Ministers routinely say that their aim is to target the dealers of
hard drugs rather than the users of soft drugs. The figures tell a rather
different story.The lurking suspicion is that, in these times of Performance
Indicators cannabis users (the very people who will be denied trial by jury)
make a soft target.

BUT WHO, in the Criminal Prosecution service deemed it - in the public
interest to prosecute this case and putting a very sick man (their words)
and his wife who is dying of cancer through such a traumatic experience.
Especially when there is case history for not proceeding.

Clearly there was no victim and no crime. The jury's verdict was another
case of common sense prevailing - God bless you. all.

Don Barnard, Braintree, Essex
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MAP posted-by: Don Beck