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Top judge wants jury-free trials for complex -

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TONY EASTLEY: One of Australia's most senior judges says that juries should no longer be used in
complex criminal trials.

New South Wales Supreme Court judge Peter McLellan says that it would be much easier and cheaper,
to use a panel of assessors to decide on someone's guilt or innocence.

Civil liberties groups say that's a bad idea.

Adam Harvey reports.

ADAM HARVEY: Criminal trials are getting more complicated.

Trials like that of Jeffrey Gilham often hang on the evidence of forensic experts.

Mr Gilham's conviction for killing his parents was quashed earlier this month after complex
evidence about the level of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream.

Now one of the Court of Appeal judges who quashed that conviction says some trials are too complex
for juries. Justice Peter McLellan made the comments in a speech to the University of New South
Wales law faculty.

PETER MCLELLAN (Voiceover): The challenge, which I sense we will confront, is whether we should
continue to use lay juries in criminal trials. Many criminal trials involve medical issues or the
sophisticated expertise of forensic scientists.

ADAM HARVEY: The president of the New South Wales Council of Civil Liberties, Cameron Murphy, says
we should stick with juries.

CAMERON MURPHY: The danger of getting rid of jury trials is that there will be a perception that
someone who's an elite judge is going to be deciding matters, someone that may not be in touch with
the ordinary community.

Now I think it's a fundamental protection that people are judged by a large number of diverse
people that make up the jury. That's why people see the system as fair and see the system as
responsible. And to remove that I think is going to be more damaging to the system than overcoming
the problems that we face with complex evidence.

ADAM HARVEY: Justice McLellan says that as trials become more complicated they're getting much
longer, and people are going to much greater lengths to avoid jury service.

Cameron Murphy.

CAMERON MURPHY: Look, I think clearly there is a problem where people are avoiding sitting on
juries. And frankly, it's hard to blame people when you see that trials are taking many months to
complete, jurors aren't properly or adequately compensated for the loss of earnings if they sit on
a jury.

And they're the sort of problems that need to be addressed to ensure that we have maximum
participation and it becomes a simpler process for people to do their public duty and to serve on a
jury.

ADAM HARVEY: Justice McLellan says one alternative to jury trials could be a panel of assessors
sitting alongside a judge or even a panel of judges.

TONY EASTLEY: Adam Harvey reporting.