Comparative Criminal Law: Fair Trials and the Adversarial System

Comparative Criminal Law: Fair Trials and the Adversarial System

Ms. Ruth Coffey
Spring 2018 reading group
F 1:00pm - 3:00pm
1 classroom credit

Prerequisites: None

Exam: No Exam

This reading group will explore changing ideas about the nature of a fair trial within an adversarial criminal justice system. What is a fair trial? Who is it fair to? How can it be achieved?

Over the past few decades, the criminal justice system in England and Wales has made a number of reforms that move it away from a ‘pure’ or traditional adversarial system. These changes, prompted in part by economic considerations and a desire for efficiency, have been accompanied by an intellectual and cultural shift in the concept of what is a fair trial.

The group will consider the people involved in a criminal trial, from the witnesses to the press reporters, the police and prosecutors, the defendants and the public. To what extent should a ‘fair trial’ be fair to each? What does fairness involve for these groups? And what responsibilities do they have to make a trial fair to others?

We will use examples from the UK and comparative material from the US and examine a selection of reforms, for example, innovations in the way in which vulnerable witnesses give evidence, or obligations of disclosure on the defence and the modified right to silence. We will critique these reforms, examine their contribution, or detraction, from the achievement of a fair trial, and consider whether similar measures could, or should, be introduced in the US. No knowledge of UK law is required.

The instructor is a UK-qualified criminal barrister, and was responsible for the re-drafting of the Criminal Practice Directions that were issued by the Lord Chief Justice in 2013.

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 1/26, 2/9, 2/23, 3/9, 3/30, 4/13

Drop Deadline: January 27, 2018 by 11:59 pm EST

Subject Areas: Criminal Law & Procedure, Legal & Political Theory, International, Comparative & Foreign Law