Letter of the week

Nick Cohen ("Who needs 12 when one will do?", 3 December) rightly criticises the Auld report's agenda of shifting the balance towards judges and away from juries - which in England have a far better track record of recognising the essential nature of justice. Cohen could have gone on to mention that the introduction of these proposals has been eased by the quiet removal, by this government, of one particular traditional pillar of democratic sensitivity from English administration of justice.

For many centuries, the attorney general was an elected member of parliament, who, by dirtying his (it always was "his") hands at the hustings, had something of the democratic process in his bones; he often went on to become Lord Chancellor. Now almost all of Labour's legal luminaries are unelected peers. Last month, our very recently ennobled, and thereafter rapidly promoted, current attorney general, Peter Goldsmith QC, justified these new arrangements by saying that his deputy, Harriet Harman, the solicitor general, is still an MP. When she was legal officer of the National Council for Civil Liberties, Harman had strong views on the importance of trial by jury. She cannot be comfortable with Auld. Indeed, she could better ensure that these proposals are properly debated in the House of Commons by resigning and attacking them from the back bench - in the interests of her Peckham constituents who are now even more likely to be the victims of future miscarriages of justice.

Chris Price
London SE21

This article first appeared in the 10 December 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Special Report - The great Koran con trick