Monday, April 7, 2014

Unanimity and transparency in court-martial voting

Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd,
The Lord Chief Justice
The case of Royal Marines Sgt. Alexander Blackman, a/k/a Marine A, will be heard this week by the Court Martial Appeal Court in London. According to Joshua Rozenberg, writing in The Guardian, the case could raise yet again the question whether non-unanimous verdicts are permissible, a point that had come up in the earlier case of R. v. Twaite, [2010] EWCA Crim 2973, or could decide that the accused at least had a right to know if the members were unanimous.
"It seems unlikely that [the Lord Chief Justice, Lord] Thomas [of Cwmgiedd] will disagree with [his predecessor, Lord] Judge and declare majority verdicts inherently unlawful. But perhaps he will refer the issue to the supreme court. Or perhaps his court will decide that convicted defendants are entitled to know whether they have been convicted by a majority ruling. If Blackman was convicted unanimously, then presumably that will be the end of the matter – unless the appeal court decides to question the board's sentencing role. But if it turns out that the board that convicted Blackman was split four-three, maybe he will have grounds for seeking a retrial."

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