Becky Watts Trial – Open Justice in action

Becky Watts Trial – Open Justice in action

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Picture from ITV

Introduction

It was only a small improvement, but baby steps …

We covered the Becky Watts murder trial that finished on 11th November 2015. Looking at the coverage after the jury went out, we were pleased to see that ITV had published not just a news story of what was happening, but the ‘Routes to Verdict’ document.

This is a document that is quite frequently given to juries nowadays, particularly in complex or complicated cases. It sets out the questions that the jury will need to ask themselves in determining whether they find an individual guilty or not guilty.

 

Route to Verdict

The full document is here, and is well worth reading.

We won’t go through it all, but will just give one example. This relates to Donovan Demetrius who was accused of assisting an offender.

It starts at question 16, as the previous questions related to different defendants :

 

16) Are you sure that Donovan Demetrius transported or stored the various bags containing the body of Miss Watts?

  • If yes: Go to question 17.
  • If no: Not guilty of assisting an offender.

17) Are you sure that at the time Donovan Demetrius transported or stored the various bags he knew or believed that Matthews had committed either a robbery,or was handling stolen goods or was possessing illegal drugs with intent to supply to another. (The jury will have to all agreed on whether it was a robbery, or was handling stolen goods or was possessing illegal drugs with intent to supply to another).

  • If yes: Go to question 18.
  • If no: Not guilty of assisting an offender.

18) Are you sure that Donovan Demetrius had no lawful authority or reasonable excuse for transporting or storing the various bags containing the body of Miss Watts?

  • Admitted– go to question 19.

19) Are you sure that Donovan Demetrius intended to impede the apprehension or prosecution of Matthews by transporting or storing the various bags containing the body of Miss Watts?

  • If yes: Guilty of assisting an offender.
  • Not guilty of assisting an offender.

 

Comment

This is very helpful to work out what the issues in the case were, as well as what questions the jury were asking themselves before they found a defendant guilty.

We don’t know exactly how this came to be published – we imagine that the Judge passed some copies to the press.

Whatever the mechanism, it is to be commended. It makes it much more explicable to those of us not in the Courtroom.

It’s important not to get too carried away with praise – this should be done as a matter of routine. There is no reason at all why this shouldn’t be published on the internet (anonymised, of course, in some cases) for every case.

After all, a criminal case is not between two parties – it is us, the people, bringing a charge against an individual. We all have an interest in the outcome, and are entitled to know what is happening in the Courts.

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

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