HIS tone was sombre, his voice soft. This week in Holyrood the Tories’ justice spokesman, Jamie Greene, reeled off criticism of a proposal to pilot trials without jury for alleged rapists.

The MSP let the dramatic language of others do his rhetorical heavy-lifting. The Faculty of Advocates, he said, had suggested the scheme was “anti-democratic”.

A retired senior judge, Mr Greene added, had condemned the pilot as “constitutionally repugnant”.

And the Scottish Solicitors Bar Association or SSBA, the Conservative concluded, believed “no other civilised nation dispenses with juries” in rape cases.

This last claim, he said, was “stark”. Mr Greene should have added that it was also “raving bonkers”.

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We are used to over-the-top language in our parliament and politics. But that SSBA quote deserves attention. Because it really is unusually ignorant claptrap.

I think it is probably best if we do not try to speculate what the bar association meant by a “civilised nation”. Let’s be generous and assume this phrase was not intended to sound as ludicrously chauvinistic as it did. But – for the avoidance of doubt – most of the world’s legal jurisdictions, including those trying to live up to the same European standards as Scotland, do without juries. And this includes for serious sexual offences.

France – which is “civilised”, right? – earlier this year dropped juries for most rape trials (though this move was widely criticised as cost-cutting).

The SSBA is not alone in dialling its rhetoric beyond max on this issue.

The pilot they oppose stems from an investigation in to how to improve the way Scotland deals with sex cases led by the Lord Justice Clerk, Leeona Dorrian. Her recommendations have met resistance from the get-go.

A KC, Frances McMenamin, last year warned judge-only trials might be compared to Nazi moves to abolish juries after the Reichstag Fire case. Goodness. Lady Dorrian is Scotland’s second most senior judge, a respected and learned jurist. She is not, you would like to think we can all agree, Adolf Hitler in a powdered wig.

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Discourse on the proposed pilot has been even more debased online than off. There has been repeated, racist talk that Humza Yousaf, our first Muslim FM, is trying to introduce Sharia Law.

Some press commentary – sorry, colleagues! – has also been googly-eye grade.

Last week The Spectator, a London magazine which indulges contrarian conservatives, declared that Scots had enjoyed a right to a jury trials since England’s 13th century Magna Carta.

This, sarkily tweeted James Chalmers, the regius professor of law at Glasgow University, was a legal-historical claim of which he was “previously unaware”.

Scholars like Prof Chalmers have urged Scotland’s lawyers and commentators to calm their beans. Let us hope they are heeded: the stakes here are high.

The proposed pilot might not undermine Magna Carta, which has no relevance to Scots juries. (The Hungarian peasant girl, as Tony Hancock nearly joked, did not, it seems, die in vain.) But we are still talking about a potentially major change to Scots Law. And this deserves proper scrutiny, sober debate.

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That is hard to have amid the reek of dumpster fire rhetoric. Which is a shame, because there is an opportunity for a fascinating, reality-based conversation about our justice system.

Some opponents of the pilot – even if their voices are drowned-out by all the noisy exaggerations – are making pretty serious observations.

Lord Uist, the former judge cited by Mr Greene, has what look to me to be reasonable concerns about the pilot as a temporary tribunal overseen by politicians.

Reformers need to disregard low-info, high-octane bombast and engage with credible critics. The onus, after all, is on supporters of the pilot to convince us all that the only way to improve rape trials is to tinker with long-standing checks and balances.

We should all remember that the problems which prompted Lady Dorrian’s work were not trivial: all is not well with how we handle sex offences.

This, it should be added, is also true of at least some of the non-jury jurisdictions.

I write as somebody who does not have any particular views on the merits of the proposed pilot.

But I do worry about the quality of debate. So should lawyers, who have in the past found themselves the target of unfair, inaccurate and overblown criticism, not least over legal aid bills for defending sex criminals. Nobody wins in an arms race of nonsense hyperbole.

I think we punters – if we are trusted to try our peers – should also be capable of looking dispassionately at the plusses and minuses of our legal system.

There are real pros for having citizens drafted to judge other citizens.

Juries have historically been important bulwarks against the power of the state in some of the English-speaking countries where they are most common.

There are also proper cons – not least that untrained jurors – peer-reviewed academic research shows this – can walk popular prejudices, such as rape myths, in to the court.

So, mind you, can professionals.

It is only two years since Italy was condemned by the European Court for Human Rights for the way it treated a woman who accused six men of gang-raping her in the grounds of a Florence fortress in 2008. The men were initially convicted but acquitted on appeal by judges who – bizarrely – cited the fact the complainer wore red pants.

We are talking most about the structures of court systems. We should also be speaking about their cultures.

There are obviously a lot of people in Scotland who see trial by jury as a cornerstone of democracy and the rule of law. Fair enough.

Some of nations ranked highest in the world for rule of law and democracy – above the UK in international tables – convene juries. Others, including the aforementioned Germany, do not.

There is more than one way to organise a fair trial. And – it has to be said – an unfair one too.