THERE'S A BELIEF that a malevolent being takes pleasure from taunting us. True, life sometimes seems that way.

Readers here will guess that the jury system doesn't top my list of useful human achievements. I have mentioned in these blogs of arguing about the South African Roman-Dutch approach to justice. I thought then that the jury system must be the most preferred way of guessing guilt or otherwise.

Image of part of  a Sailing to Purgatory webpage to illustrate the article.
The Triumph of Justice ... Thanks to Wikipedia for Hans von Aachen's Allegory or The Triumph of Justice, from 1598.
Now very much wiser – at least on that point – I wonder why I didn't accept that two intelligent, well-educated elders might be better at guessing at guilt or otherwise. Perhaps if the judges are biased, then it wouldn't work. Obviously I hadn't considered the case of 11 or 12 people bigoted by bias, too.

Ship's Log 11 ii 2017
Wind NNE 8 knots | Barometer 1022 steady Heavy cloud cover | Full moon 10° 33' N Temperature 2°

This seemed so with the jurors who reviewed my case, and the little mob of alleged gangsters who were tried alongside me. I understand, of course, that the jury people were, well, sorely tried. Obliged to be a juror for 18 months can't be fair, and it wasn't.

Look at the mountains of documents, jury bundles, they were supposed to read - endless collections of photocopies. Were there any actual readers among them? Few gave much impression of an education. I wondered if there were eleven good men and true in that jury? Were there many? I believe a few did try to do the right thing.

Distinguished rank or valour

The website Phrases says the expression came from the early 17th century, and good implied distinguished rank or valour. 'These days people aren't required to be valiant or of high rank in order to be part of a jury.'

The result of the – I'll put it politely – deliberations at Woolwich was not a fine of £20 or so for the fellows they didn't like, for class or for who knows what reason. All found guilty received jail terms usually reserved for terrorist bombers.

Yet for what? Assuming any were actually guilty, they had become entrepreneurs taking advantage of a ludicrous law imported from across the Pond, from a system that had discovered years before how impossible and unenforceable Prohibition had been. The lesson that Mother Grundy laws don't work, can't work, with thinking adults in a modern world seemed to have been forgotten.

When the last guilty pleas were announced, questionable employees among the investigators were said to leap up and down, cheering, as if they witnessed a needed goal at a football match. It is very hard to believe that the longest criminal trial in England, held in camera, and at such an enormous cost to the taxpayer, had much to do with justice.