SIR WILLIAM BLACKSTONE, an 18th-century jurist who wrote a famous four-volume history of English law, described a manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s right to trial by his peers as Ã¢â‚¬Å“the principal bulwark of our libertiesÃ¢â‚¬Â. Almost 250 years later, this way of dispensing justice has greatly diminished; magistrates routinely hear criminal cases without jurors. However, for the past four centuries serious crimes in England and Wales have always been tried before a jury. On January 12th the trial of four men accused of armed robbery began at the Royal Courts of Justice in London heard by a judge alone, the first such case in modern times
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