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Citizens' juries: more questions than answers?
  1. M McKee
  1. Correspondence to Martin McKee, European Centre on Health of Societies, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 15-17 Tavistock Place, London WC1H 9SH, UK; martin.mckee{at}lshtm.ac.uk

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It is a strange paradox that, at a time when the UK government was restricting the long-established right by its citizens to trial by jury (eg, increasing police powers to issue fixed penalty notices and by placing those whom the security services merely suspect, on undisclosed grounds, of ‘terrorist involvement’ under house arrest),1 it was seeking to extend the use of juries into areas that have long been seen as the responsibility of the executive or legislature. In part, this is a reflection of the absence of what has been termed civics from the educational curriculum; while educated Americans are familiar with the concept of separation of powers, by their words and actions, it is apparent that the workings of the (unwritten) British constitution remain a mystery to most senior politicians from all parties.2 It also reflects a situation whereby members of parliament, whose primary role should be to scrutinise legislation to ensure that it reflects the available evidence and the public mood, have largely abandoned this role to become surrogate social workers concerned with the immediate problems of individual constituents, a role for which they are mostly untrained and which is rightly the responsibility of local councillors. Ministers who, as recent evidence to the House of Commons Health Committee revealed, struggle with the concept of a randomised controlled trial,3 …

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