juries

juries

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juries

  • used in the legal system for over 1,000 years and maybe before the norman conquest but they would have been witnesses not decisison-makers.
  • Only a small percentage of cases are tried by jurys today.

Juries in Criminal cases - Most importantly used in the crown court where they decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. Jury trials account for less than 1% of all criminal trials because most are held in the magistrates court and those that do go to the crown court about 2 in 3 defendants plead guilty.

Juries in civil cases -They are now only used in limited circumstances and they have a dual role, they decide wether the claiment has proved his case, and whether they have won their case. The jury also decide the amount of damages awarded. Jury trials are no only used in defamation, false imporisonment, malicious prosecution or fraud cases. Even in these cases a cury can be refused by the judge if the case involves complicated data unsuitable for the jury.

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Jury qualifications

Before 1972 to take part in jury service you needed to hold your onw land, this meant that less women and young people were able to take part in jury service, so it was widened by the Criminal Justice Act 1972. To qualify for jury service you must be:

  • aged between 18 and 70,
  • registered as a parliamentary or local governement elector,
  • A resident of the Uk, 5 years since you were 13,
  • mentally ill
  • banned from jury service previously.
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Disqualification

Some criminal convictions will disqualify a person from jury service, the type of sentence decided whether the person should be allowed on jury service. To be disqualified permanently youwould have had to have been sentenced to:

  • imprisonment for life, detention for life or custody for life.
  • detention during Her Majesty's pleasure or during the pleasure of the Secetary of State.
  • imprisonment for public protection or detention for public protection.
  • a extended sentence.
  • a term of imprisonment for 5 years or more.

To be disqualified for 10 years you had to have:

  • served a 10 year sentence,
  • had a suspended sentence in the past 10 years.
  • had a community order passed in the past 10 years. Also if you are currently on bail you would be disqualifed and if you dont inform the court of what you have commited you would be fined £5000.
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Mentally disordered and lack of capacity.

A mentally disordered person is defined in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 as:

  • A person who suffers or has suffered from mental illness, psychopathic disorder, mental handicap or severe mental handicap. They must either be located in a hospital or a regular attender for treatment.
  • This definition doesnt distinguish between mild depression from their GP and those sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983

Lack of capacity

  • You are likely to be discharged from jury service because you don't speak the same language or because you have a disability which makes them unsuitable as jurors such as blindness as they would be unable to see plans and photographs. The judge can only discharge a juror if he is atified that the diability means that the juror is not capable of acting effectivly.
  • If you were deaf you would need an interpreter and this was not allowed it was an extra person in the room.
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The right to be excused from jury service.

  • Prior to 2004 people in certain occupations such as doctors and pharmacists had the right to be excused from jury service, but the criminal justice Act 2003 abolished this. This means that doctors cannot excuse themselves from jury service, though they can apply for a discretionary excusal.
  • People in the forces can be excused if their commanding officer certifies that their absence from duty would be missed.
  • If you have problems and need to be excused from jury service, the court has a discretion to grant such an excusal but will only do so if there is a good reason, such as being really ill, a disability or having a small baby. Also business appointments, holidays and examinations.
  • In these circumstance jury service would probably be moved to another date, rather that excuse the person completely. If a person isnt excused from jury service and they dont turn up they could be fined.The criminal Justice Act 2003 allowed lawyers, judges, police to go on jury service. This could lead to bias or to a legally well qualified juror influencing the rest of the jury.
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Selecting a Jury.

  • At each crown court there is an offical who is responsible for summonising enough jurors to try the cases that will be heard in each two week period.
  • Names will be selected at random from the electoral registers.
  • They summon more than 12 jurors because of the amount of courts rooms and it is not know how many will be disqualified.
  • They are then expected to attend for a two week jury service but this may over run and they would have to continue for longer.
  • Once the list of jurors in complete both the prosecution and the defence have the right to see the list. The jurors may then be vetted.
  • Routine Police Check
  • A look into the jurors background - a wider check is done on their political backgrounds and political affiliations.
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Selection at court

  • The jurors are divided into 15 and then at the start of the trial the court clerk will select 12 randomly.
  • If there arnt enough jurors there is a power that allows them to choose people passing along the street called 'praying a talesman'.
  • It is very unusual to use this power.
  • Once the panel have been selected the jurors go into the jury box. Before this the prosecutition and defence have the right to challenge the jury. These are:
  • To array
  • For cause - challenging the rights of an individual to sit on the jury.
  • prosecution rights to stand by jurors .
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Criticisms of the selected jury.

  • Selecting the jury from a list of registered voters doesnt give a representative sample of the public excludes the homeless and not everyone is registered to vote.
  • One problem is whether its desirable for the jury to be racially mixed, where the defendant is from an ethnic minority.
  • #Although some checks are carried out many disqualified people fail to disclose this fact and sit on the jury.
  • If there are to many discretionary excusals it may lead to an unrepresentative jury.
  • The prosecution' rights of stand by was kept even when the defence peremptory challenge was withdrawn but this could be seen as giving the prosecution an advantage in rigging the jury.
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The jury's role in criminal cases.

  • Only used in the crown court for cases where the defendant has said not guilty.
  • presided over by the judge.
  • functions split between the judge and the jury.
  • The judge will sum up the case at the end, to the jury and direct them on any law involved.
  • The jury then retire to a private room and decide whether they are guilty or innocent.
  • They must try to come to an unanimous verdict, which is them all agreeing.
  • The judge must accept the juries verdict even if they dont agree this goes back to Bushell's case (1670)
  • If after two hours the jury still havnt reached a verdict the judge will call them back into the court room and tell them that he can now accept a majority verdict.
  • Majority verdicts have been allowed since 1967.
  • They were introduced because of the fear of 'nobbling' which is a juror being bribed by asociates of the defendant into voting for not guilty.
  • The jurys discussion is secret and there can be no inquiry into how they came to that verdict because of s.8 Contempt of Court Act 1981 because jurys were selling their story to the newspaper.
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Advantages of a jury trial.

  • 12 strangers, no legal knowledge means its not going to be biased and the jury is considered as one of the fundamentals of a democratic society.
  • They decide the case on their ideas of fairness refered to as jury equity. (pontings case: 1985)
  • The use of a jury is known as keeping the legal system more open. This is becaue the public are involved and this makes the law clearer becuase points have to be explained to the jury, allowing the defendant to understand the case more easily.
  • Secrecy of the jury room - jury are free from pressure in ther discussion and they are protected from outside influence.
  • A jury should be impartial a they are not connected to anyone on the case. Random selecting should result in a cross section of society.
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Disadvantages of a jury trial.

  • The jury can ignore an unjust law but in some circumstances this type of dicision can be seen as a perverse decision and one which is not justified.
  • The secrecy of the jury room - because no reason has to be given for the final verdict, so there is no way of knowing if the jury understood the case.
  • They may be prejudice or biased against the police. They may also be racially prejudiced.
  • Media coverage may influence the jury.
  • They jury may not understand the case which they are trying.
  • Fraud trials with complex accounts being given in evidence can create problems for jurors. These cases are also long and can place a strain on the jury.
  • Juries are often criticised on the grounds that they acquit to many defendants.
  • The jury may rush their verdict so that they can leave.
  • Jury service can also be a strain.
  • Sometimes the jury have to be provided with police protection.
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Juries in civil cases.

  • Juries decide both the liability of the parties in the case and the amount of damages awarded. They don't follow past cases so they award as much as they feel is fair.
  • The jury dont have to give a reason for the amount it awards or the decisison.
  • They may be biased about people such a newspapers or people who they belive can afford to pay the fine.
  • Civil cases are expensive and last long. At the end of the case the losing party must pay for all the costs.
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