There have been warnings that the Director of Public Prosecution’s (DPP’s) attempts to curtail representation of a broad set of activists on the jury of the Jobstown trial, could undermine the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
Responding to the DPP’s office’s calls for the exclusion of jurors who are from Tallaght, were active in the water charges campaign, or have expressed views on water charges, Dr. Gavin Mendel-Gleason (Workers’ Party representative for Dublin Northwest) claimed that the prosecution are trying to make use of a well known effect in science known as “selection bias”.
Mendel-Gleason is a statistical researcher in Trinity College’s School of Computer Science and Statistics.
Commenting on the selection demands, Mendel-Gleason stated:
If I want to prejudice the answers of a group of jurors, I can do so by excluding jurors on a related set of questions. In science this is known as selection bias and it is always important for scientists attempting to find representative samples to avoid selection bias.
The entire concept of a ‘jury of peers’ relies on creating a representative selection of the population. Introducing selective questions which are likely to be associated with a given outcome is equivalent to selecting based on the politics of jurors.
Since even Fianna Fáil came out in favour of abolishing the water charges in the last election, such a selection process is likely to remove over 40% of the population.
Since we wouldn’t tolerate the exclusion of jurors on the basis of political party affiliation, it stands to reason that we should oppose exclusion on the basis of questions intended to probe that affiliation.