Juries

THE ROLE OF THE JURY

The jury work in the Crown Court, hearing evidence and assessing facts to determine if the defendent is guilty or not.

Only 1% of all criminal cases are heard by a jury.

On the jury, 12 strangers with no legal experience work together to discuss and deliberate the verdict, and try to give an unanimous decision (or at least a majority decision with a 10:2 split). If they give a guilty verdict, the jury must believe that the defendent is guilty beyond all reasonable doubt.

1 of 10

THE USE OF JURIES IN OTHER CASES

Juries are only used in civil cases in the folloowing situations: defamation, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, or fraud. They decide, on the balance of probabilities whether the defendant has proven their case. They also decide the amount of compensation to be paid by the defedent to the claimant. 

They can be used in personal injury cases but only in exceptional circumstances. H v Ministry of Defence 1991 tells us that it is very rare that a jury is used. The defendent was a soldier who had received negligent medical treatment necessitating the amputation of his penis. The court held this as an unexceptional circumstance.

Juries sometimes appear in the Coroner's Court, with a jury of 7 - 11 people. They enquire into the cause of death. They are only used in circumstrances such as: death in custody with unknown cause/caused by violence, death caused by a police officer, or death caused by poisoning or disease.

2 of 10

JURY SELECTION

The necessary qualifications to be selected as a juror are detailed in the Jurors Act 1970. Potential jurors are selected randomly from a pool of 18-75 year olds on the electoral roll, who have been a resident in the UK for at least 5 years from the age of 13.

They must not be mentally disordered (severe mental illness e.g schizophrenia), lack capacity (lack of English, sight, or hearing), or disqualified.

 

3 of 10

JURY SELECTION PT.2

There are two types of disqualification : permanent and 10 years.

People who are permanently disqualified fall into one or more of the following categories: have served a life sentence, have been detained at Her Majesty's Pleasure, have been imprisoned for public protection, have served an extended sentence, or have been in prison for 5 or more years. Ten year disqualifications can be given for: serving a prison sentence for less than 5 years, have served a suspended sentence, or have had a community order.

Failure to declare disqualification results in a fine of £5000.

Some people receive a discretionary excusal on basis of holidays, exams, hospital appointments, illness, disabilities etc.

However some people are ineligible for jury service, and these people are MP's or traffic wardens.

Imperonation of ajuror, or failure to attend your jury service results in a fine of £1000.

4 of 10

CHALLENGING A JURY

Both the Prosecution and the Defence have the right to challenge particular members of the jury.

TO THE ARRAY - This is a challenge to remove the entire jury.

 e.g R v Fraser, the defendent was of an ethnic minority, but all of the jurors were white.

FOR THE CAUSE - This is a challenge to an individual juror.

 e.g R v Wilson, the wife of a prison officer was selected as the juror for two defendants who had been on remand in her husband's prison, their convictions were quashed.

RIGHT TO STAND BY - This is only a right for the Prosecution. Out of the potential 15 jurors, three are put at the bottom of the list, leaving the preferred twelve to sit as the jury.

5 of 10

CRITICISMS OF JURY SELECTION

1. USE OF THE ELECTORAL REGISTER - Not everyone is on the electoral register, therefore it is not a cross section of the entire population. Also, the register shows no additional important information such as disqualifications.

2. RANDOM SELECTION - The jury may not always be representative, and peope may be selected serveral times, or not at all.

3. DISQUALIFIED JURORS - Once again, a large chuink of the population is removed from jury service so it isn't representative. 

4. EXCUSALS - The excusal reasons are too wide, and also can result in many people seeking excusals e.g medical profession.

5. PROSECUTION RIGHT TO STANDBY - The Prosecution will pick the jurors most likely to give a guilty verdict by playing on chances of discrimination e.g black defendent, all white jurors selected, any POC put at the bottom of the list. This encourages discrimination.

6 of 10

ADVANTAGES OF JURY TRIAL

PUBLIC CONFIDENCE

All of the jurors are strangers, unknown to each other or anyone else in the court room. They are therefore unbiased, and also have not been case hardened like judges and therefore ar emore likely to pay closer atttention to the details of the case. 

JURY EQUITY

The jury is not 'bound to follow past precedent or give reasons for their verdict.' (Pontings case 1984). They are able to base their verdict on fairness rather than guilt according to circumstances, something the Judiciary cannot do. 

OPEN SYSTEM OF JUSTICE

Having members of the public in the court as jurors, allows normal people to see justice in action ,and understand the procedure of equal access. Therefore they can see that the justice system is open to everyone, not only those better off, or with higher status in society.

7 of 10

ADVANTAGES OF JURY TRIAL PT.2

SECRECY OF THE JURY ROOM

The jury deliberates alone, without any legal personnel, or people involved with the casse. Due to this, they are able to speak freely as they aren't under pressure from members of the court. What is said in the room is completely private, so the jurors do not need to fear that their views could be shared and put them in danger.

IMPARTIALITY

No one in the court knows each other. Therefore their deicisons and statements aren't compromised by pressure, or familiarity with other members of the jury/court proceedings. 

8 of 10

DISADVANTAGES OF JURY TRIAL

PERVERSE DECISIONS

This is when the jury gets the verdict wrong e.g a guilty verdict despite there being very little evidence or vice versa.For example, in the case of Billy Dunlop 1998, Dunlop had murdered his ex partner and hid her under his bath. The victim was found by her mother, and Dunlop was charged with the murder. At his trial, there wasn't sufficient evidence to charge him and he was acquitted. He later bragged about the murder in prison, serving a sentence for a different offence.However due to the double jeopardy law, he could not be retried for the crime. Guilty people could be let back on the streets, and innocent people could be sent to prison as a result of peverse decisions.

SECRECY

The jury take an oath to declare they will not share case information with anyone outside of the court room. However, if they hear a very dsiturbing case, it could cause problems in their private life, but due to the oath they cannot share anything for fear of prosecutuion. Therefore it is difficult to get rid of the problem, as they cannot speak to family, or a counsellor,Their only option is to speak to a court counsellor, who they do not know.

9 of 10

DISADVANTAGES OF JURY TRIAL PT.2

BIAS

Bias cannot be erased in the courtroom, as most of the time it cannot be proven. Therefore this is unfair and denies equal access to justice. Due to personal ideologies being generally subconcious, nothing can be done about this problem.

MEDIA INFLUENCE

In cases of a high profile trial, information will be everywhere, and it is very hard to avoid in today's society. Therefore, things such as newspapers, overhearing other's views, TV etc. can influence a jury and lead them to pass the verdict the media wants them to give. For example in the case of Taylor & Taylor, a high profile case in which two issters had murdered several children. The Sun newspaper shared a photo of the crime scene which turned out to be fake. However, as some members of the jury had seen the article, the defence called for a retrial due to media influence.

LACK OF UNDERSTANDING

The jury has no legal experience. Therefore many things in the court room are open to personal interpretation. In thse cases, the verdict could be influenced.

10 of 10

Comments

No comments have yet been made

Similar Law resources:

See all Law resources »See all The Criminal courts and lay people resources »