Friday 30 April 2010

Ministry of Injustice

A disappointing letter this morning from the Ministry of Justice in response to Hafal’s call for an end to disqualification of people receiving treatment for their mental health from serving on juries even though the vast majority are perfectly competent to perform this basic civic duty. Our sister charity Rethink has proposed a simple test based on the Mental Capacity Act but the Ministry has not acted on its promise to reform the system and proposes to go on insulting about 9,000 people a year by excluding them. The Ministry tries to evade the accusation of discrimination telling me that jury service is “foremost a duty not a civil right”: this intriguing argument could be used to exclude all sorts of “inconvenient” people from serving their community. Come on, Mr Straw, this is an old-fashioned, nasty little rule which is offensive to a lot of citizens and sets a rotten example to everybody else. If you are saying people can’t serve on a jury just because they are receiving some kind of treatment for their mental health then you are effectively telling employers that they should not employ such people in any job requiring a modicum of reliability and judgement . . . but of course that would be against the law . . . which your Ministry is there to enforce . . . er . . . work it out, Jack!