The entertaining and intriguing infographic and poll opens with a cartoon image of an American eagle getting ready to duke it out with the symbol of British pride, a British bulldog. The UK and US legal systems are then pitted against each other in an eight-round battle for bragging rights. The loser of the world wide vote will suffer the humiliation of having their cartoon mascot sing the winner’s national anthem when the first round of voting comes to an end at the end of October.
The incentive for the project
The project was initiated after deep legal aid cuts in the UK caused many in the country to re-examine its once proud legal system. What was once viewed as the epitome of a civilised and progressive society is now being viewed with a far more critical eye. It seems natural to compare the modern day UK legal system to the US because they share a common root. In today’s world the US has traditionally been viewed as having a somewhat backward looking attitude towards law and order, with the highest prison population in the world and a steadfast commitment to the death penalty. But how do these two systems fair when placed side-by-side and placed under the vote of the public?
The battle for supremacy covers eight major building blocks of the justice system while polling you at each stage about whether you prefer the approach used in the US or the UK. You can see how many people have voted for the US and the UK in each section, and at the end of the interactive infographic you can see the overall score for each nation.
Round 1: What right do you have to legal assistance?
The first area of comparison looks at a citizen’s right to legal assistance from the state. The US puts forth your right to one public defender who is assigned to you and who is an employee of the state. The UK counters with your right to two lawyers (A solicitor who manages and investigates the case and a barrister who speaks in court). The UK seemingly has the edge here because you can also choose your public defender and they come from the private sector. But are there drawbacks to this approach? You get to decide by clicking on the system which you prefer.
Round 2: Would you prefer an overworked lawyer or an underpaid one?
You are then taken to round two where humorous cartoon images show the state of affairs. You learn that in the US a felony lawyer typically handles up to 200 cases per year, while in the UK a crown court lawyer is not as overworked and typically handles 60 cases per year. However we see that a new US public defender is paid a much higher wage, earning 9% above the national average wage, while a new UK public defender might not be so motivated because their salary is 8% below the national average wage. You vote for whether you prefer an overworked lawyer or an underpaid one.
Round 3: Is a guilty plea a raw deal?
Round three takes us to the topic of plea bargaining. The infographic shows us that in the US plea bargaining is the norm, and 90% of cases are handled this way. The accused pleads guilty and is guaranteed a lesser sentence. You cast a vote to the US if you think this is a better way of doing things compared to the UK’s way where the prosecution cannot guarantee a lesser sentence for a guilty plea. Naturally in the UK a lot fewer people accused of a crime plead guilty. Is this ultimately a better or worse way of doing things?
Round 4: Would you prefer a random jury or to select one?
The next round looks into the process of jury selection. In the US your defence team is able to challenge the selection of jury candidates. This is not so in the UK, except in rare circumstances. Its up to you to decide which country is going about things in the better way.
Round 5: Would you allow the following types of evidence into trial?
Round five takes us to the question of what kind of evidence should be allowed into trial. You get to see how the two nations differ in their views about the admissibility of hearsay evidence, confessions obtained without having your rights read to you, evidence of prior convictions and evidence obtained without a search warrant. The UK appears to say that evidence is evidence while the US is much more tentative on this subject and defends the rights of the accused much more strictly. But which approach is more just and representative of a more civilised society? You have your say by casting your vote.
Round 6: What should be the purpose of imprisonment?
Next we are taken to some interesting statistics regarding prison sentences and reoffending rates. We see that US sentences are much harsher but their reoffending rate is also higher. But is the situation as straight forward as it seems on paper? It is for you to decide whether the US higher emphasis on hard punishment is better for society than the UK way of lighter sentences and higher emphasis on rehabilitation.
Round 7: Is it better to have more or less of the population in prison?
In the penultimate round you have to decide whether it is better to have more or less of the population in prison. The more you ponder the question though the more you will begin to appreciate the complexity of the situation. The infographic shows that the US is ranked number one worldwide with 0.7% of its population in prison, while the UK has 0.13% of its population in prison. But what are you supposed to do with people who break the law or are a danger to other people? Its an interesting and involved question, and you get to give your nod to one of the two countries.
Round 8: Does the death penalty have a place in a civilised country?
The final round asks you whether the death penalty has a place in a civilised country. The infographic shows that the death penalty is alive and kicking, no pun intended, in 32 states in the US. However you also learn from the infographic that 4.1% of defendants who had been sentenced to death in the US turned out to be innocent. On the other side of the pond the death penalty is not used, however in a recent survey just about half of the UK citizens asked wanted the death penalty reinstated. In this round you get to add your voice to the death penalty topic by giving your vote to the country who is getting it right in your opinion.
You can easily share the infographic and poll to all of the major social networking and media sites at the click of a button. You can use the permalink at the end of the infographic to share the campaign in other channels and there is also an embedded code for that you can use.
One of the neat things about sharing the poll on your site is that all of the results are cumulative and synchronised between all hosting websites. This means that you do not just get to count the votes of the people who visit your particular website and participate. It means that the live results displayed are for all versions of the infographic being shared on the web.
Future plans for the project
The project has initially being released through UK media channels. A second release wave will be made through the US media after the first round is complete at the end of October. The winner and the loser will be presented, with the losing animated mascot singing the national anthem of the victor. The US public will then be invited to share their votes to see if the victor will be overthrown.
The authors of the project plan to release recurring updates with interesting information about how the vote is going, such as how the people in the UK are voting, how the people in the US are voting and how the vote is looking from people in other countries.