G151 Juries

Brief notes on Juries.

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What you need to know...

  • Jury Qualifications
  • Size of the Jury
  • How the Jury is used in criminal cases
  • How the Jury is is used in civil cases
  • The advantages of trial by jury
  • The disadvantages of trial by jury
  • Alternatives to trial by jury
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Jury Qualifications

  • Basic Qualifications
    • 18 - 70 years old
    • On Electoral Roll
    • Lived in UK for five years since 13th birthday
    • Not disqualified
    • Not mentally disordered
  • Disqualified
    • For life if sentenced to 5+ years in prison
    • For 10 years if sentenced to less than 5 years in prison, on suspended sentence or on a community order and while on bail.
  • Excusals
    • Armed forces or Discretionary
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Selection

  • Central office selects from electoral register
  • Summons is sent
    • Must attend unless disqualified or excused
  • May be vetted for criminal record with wider checks for cases of national security
  • Challenges may be made for cause
    • Individual
    • Whole Jury
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Criticisms of Selection

  • Electoral register doesn't include all the population as it excludes the homeless
  • No power to ensure multi-racial juries
  • Some disqualified jurors may sit and those given certain sentences are still eligible
  • Excusals were too many at one stage
    • Now more difficult to get an excusal and this may lead to resentment
  • Judges may exert too much influence on juries
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Role of the Jury in criminal cases

  • Decides facts
  • Retires to private room at end of trial to decide guilt or innocence
  • Initially unanimous (all 12 jurors) but may be majority verdict (at least 10 jurors) if unanimous is not possible
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Role of the jury in civil cases

  • Dual role - both deciding who is liable and the amount of damages
  • Very rarely used
  • Used in cases of:
    • Defamation
    • False Imprisonment
    • Malicious Prosecution
    • Fraud
  • No longer used in Personal Injury cases
  • Used in certain circumstances in Coroner's Courts
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Advantages of trial by jury

  • Public confidence - one of the fundamentals of a democratic society
  • "The lamp that shows freedom lives"
  • Jury equity - decide on fairness and not just the law (Kronlid (1996))
  • Open system of justice - justice is seen to be done
  • Secrecy of the jury room - allows the jury to be free of outside pressure
  • Impartiality - not connected to anyone in the case
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Disadvantages of trial by jury

  • Perverse decisions - can be protest against the law, but is it up to the jury?
  • Secrecy of the jury room
    • As it is unknown how they make the decisions and there may be questionable decisions which cannot be appealed e.g. Young, Connor and Rollock
  • Racial Bias as there is no right to a multiracial jury
  • Media coverage may influence jurors
  • Lack of understanding - especially for fraud trials
  • High acquittal rates
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Special problems with using juries in Civil Cases

  • Deciding the amount of damages
  • Not giving reasoned decision
  • If public figures are involved, there may be bias
  • Cost of using a jury makes the case much more expensive
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Alternatives to trial by jury

  • Trial by a single judge
    • Less public confidence in this
  • Panel of Judges
    • Expensive
  • Judge plus lay assessors
    • Could be useful for fraud cases if accountants are used as the lay assessors
  • A 'mini jury'
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Common Mistakes!

  • Getting JURIES muddled up with JUDICIARY or MAGISTRATES
  • Not answering the question
    • On part (b) questions where you give both advantages AND disadvantages where only one may be required
  • Lack of detail
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