Juries may be told of previous offences in child sex cases

Juries in child sex offence trials may be told if a defendant
has previous convictions for crimes within the same category, under
proposals announced by home secretary David Blunkett,
writes Amy Taylor.

The new measures were outlined in an order laid in Parliament
this week for debate and will also apply to theft offences

Under the new measures, the “strong presumption”
will be that convictions should be revealed to the jury. This would
reverse the current position where evidence of a defendant’s
bad character is generally inadmissible to court.

The government said the plans would give juries access to
information about a defendant’s previous convictions and
other misconduct where it was relevant and likely to throw new
light on a case, without disproportionately prejudicing the
fairness of the trial.

However, a spokesperson for the human rights organisation
Liberty said that the plans could cause the wrong people to be
convicted. “If you tell a jury with the best will in the
world that someone has a string of previous convictions, the
overwhelming likelihood is that they will convict,” he


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