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Changing of the Guard

NCJ Number
ABA Journal Volume: 82 Dated: (June 1996) Pages: 72-78
L Stansky
Date Published
7 pages
This article examines proposed changes to the British legal system.
In 1994 a blue ribbon panel investigated the state of the British legal system and called for modernization of the courts and for increased use of alternative dispute resolution. Other reforms have come about independently: (1) England has implemented a restrained form of the American contingency fee system, called "conditional fees"; (2) Solicitors have gained greater rights of audience in courts that were once the exclusive turf of barristers; (3) Proposed rules for governing group actions, akin to American class actions, are being developed to formalize traditionally ad-hoc methods of handling such cases; (4) Politicians are trying to generate support for instituting mandatory minimum sentences for certain offenders deemed to be a pernicious threat; and (5) The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 substantially undercuts a suspect's right to remain silent upon arrest and a defendant's right to remain silent at trial. Under the new law, a jury may draw an adverse inference from a defendant's effort to raise at trial a fact or issue not disclosed upon arrest, if it would have been reasonable for the accused to have disclosed that fact to police in the first place; a defendant¦s decision to remain silent at trial can also count against him with the jury.