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In the UK, at least by my understanding, most trials are heard in a magistrates' court without a jury. Only the most serious crimes are heard in the Crown Court and require a jury verdict.

However, if I were being tried for a serious crime, say murder, and I don't trust the intelligence of the general public, could I request that my case be decided purely by a judge? Given the right to a jury trial is supposedly a right, surely one should be able to waive it?

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    Assuming your objective is to be found not guilty, you will have far better chances in a jury trial in a crown court than at a magistrates court judging by the statistics.
    – abligh
    Oct 24, 2022 at 9:42
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    @abligh - to be clear, I'm not actually facing any sort of trial... I just don't trust the intelligence or impartiality of the British public... So I think that a defendant should have the right to be judged by someone who actually knows and understands the law, and who is likely to be far more an impartial arbiter. Magistrates are another story, I'm mostly talking about Crown Court Judges Oct 24, 2022 at 14:22
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    I had assumed that :-) ... and was using "you" to mean "one". However, note that even in a jury trial, the judge decides matters of law. The jury only gets to decide matters of fact.
    – abligh
    Oct 24, 2022 at 20:11
  • That's the way it's meant to be... But a jury can still find someone innocent or guilty regardless of the law or fact should they so choose Oct 24, 2022 at 20:39
  • Waiving your right to a jury trial would just mean whomever is trying you doesn't have to try you by jury. That doesn't mean they won't try you by jury, though, just that they have the option to not do so. You would need to explicitly have the right to (choose to) be tried by judge or to not be tried by jury for one to expect a corresponding request to be granted.
    – NotThatGuy
    Oct 25, 2022 at 11:43

2 Answers 2

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There is nothing (that I can find) that allows for a defendant to elect for a trial without a jury in the Crown Court but such trials are possible, if there is evidence of jury tampering, under section 44 Criminal Justice Act 2003:

[...]

(2)The prosecution may apply to a judge of the Crown Court for the trial to be conducted without a jury.

(3)If an application under subsection (2) is made and the judge is satisfied that both of the following two conditions are fulfilled, he must make an order that the trial is to be conducted without a jury; but if he is not so satisfied he must refuse the application.

(4)The first condition is that there is evidence of a real and present danger that jury tampering would take place.

(5)The second condition is that, notwithstanding any steps (including the provision of police protection) which might reasonably be taken to prevent jury tampering, the likelihood that it would take place would be so substantial as to make it necessary in the interests of justice for the trial to be conducted without a jury.

[...]

Althought the 2003 Act applies throughout to , there are also special provisions for terrorism-related trials in at section 1 Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007:

(1)This section applies in relation to a person charged with one or more indictable offences (“the defendant”).

(2)The Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland may issue a certificate that any trial on indictment of the defendant (and of any person committed for trial with the defendant) is to be conducted without a jury if—

  • (a)he suspects that any of the following conditions is met, and

  • (b)he is satisfied that in view of this there is a risk that the administration of justice might be impaired if the trial were to be conducted with a jury.

(3)Condition 1 is that the defendant is, or is an associate (see subsection (9)) of, a person who—

  • (a)is a member of a proscribed organisation (see subsection (10)), or

  • (b)has at any time been a member of an organisation that was, at that time, a proscribed organisation.

(4)Condition 2 is that—

  • (a)the offence or any of the offences was committed on behalf of a proscribed organisation, or

  • (b)a proscribed organisation was otherwise involved with, or assisted in, the carrying out of the offence or any of the offences.

(5)Condition 3 is that an attempt has been made to prejudice the investigation or prosecution of the offence or any of the offences and—

  • (a)the attempt was made on behalf of a proscribed organisation, or

  • (b)a proscribed organisation was otherwise involved with, or assisted in, the attempt.

(6)Condition 4 is that the offence or any of the offences was committed to any extent (whether directly or indirectly) as a result of, in connection with or in response to religious or political hostility of one person or group of persons towards another person or group of persons.

And, for completeness, section 43 of the 2003 Act is prospective legislation (i.e. not in force) for certain fraud cases to be conducted without a jury due to the complexity and/or length of the trial.

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For a serious crime like murder, you will not have the choice of a trial by judge alone.

For crimes that are tried in the Crown Court (that is, indictable offences, or either-way offences that the Crown has chosen to proceed by indictment, or that the accused has elected to be heard in Crown Court), the defence does not have the option of waiving a jury and choosing trial by judge alone. See Laura Hoyano, "Opinion: Judge-alone trials can deliver justice – but only if defendants choose them"; Christopher Kessling, "Should I elect trial by jury?"; Either-way offences; Wikipedia.

You are not alone in your position that one should be able to waive this right. Laura Hoyano says: "In the UK, the ‘right’ to trial by jury is foisted on defendants even when, objectively, that right may not be to their benefit."

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