Lay People

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Criminial cases cont.

  • jury retire to private room where a foreperson (to read out verdict) is chosen
  • if they dont return a unanimous verdict within 2hrs 10m, judge may advise that, under the Criminal Justice Act 1967, a majority verdict will be accepted- 20% of convictions/year are given by such verdicts
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Civil cases

  • fewer than 1% are tried by jury (mostly libel, can be false imprisonment- Supreme Court Act 1981)
  • trial by jury in civil system is almost obsolete
  • in WARD v JAMES, Lord Denning said juries should be used rarely as they find assessing damages accurately difficult; cant be expected what's been awarded in similar cases
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Coroner's courts

  • cases involving deaths in custody (police station or prison)
  • uneven no. of jurors summoned - 7 to 11
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Juries Representivity

  • this ideal is fundamental justification for existence of juries
  • ideal has been thought to have been brought closer by abolition of property qualification and random selection from a computer
  • random selection has, however been argued to make representativeness less likely as certain groups of people more likely to be excused from the service may be under-represented - e.g. pregnant women may cause women to be under-represented
  • Professor Zander's research shows this as being so, so too for non-whites- make up 5% of jurors and 5.9% of population
  • Commission for Racial Equality suggested that in cases with racial dimension, if D reasonably thinks he can't receive fair trial from all-white jury then judge should have power to order three jurors from same ethinic background as D and V
  • this reccommendation was endorsed by the Runciman Royal Commission although still not implemented (so decision in R v FORD 'there is no principle that a jury should be racially balanced)
  • endorsed further by Lord Justice Auld in his criminal justice review
  • in recent years, representativeness has been threatened by rising no. of professionals evading the service, this was however made more difficult by the Criminal Justice Bill 2003
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Advantages of Juries

-Public Participation

  • ordinary person is involved in administration of justice, verdicts seen to be made of society rather than judicial system
  • satisfies constitutional tradition of 'judgement by one's peers'.
  • Lord Denning described it as being ''ordinary folk's' biggest lesson in citizenship

A survey commissioned by Bar Council and the Law Society found:

  • 85% trusted juries to reach the right decision
  • 80% thought juries were likely to reflect their views and values

-'Layman's equity'

  • because of ultimate right to decision, juries are seen as check on officialdom and protection against oppressive prosecution, 'the most democratic form of justice in the world - Micheal Mansfield QC
  • juries have power to acquit where law demands a guilty verdict
  • several cases demonstrate juries' decision making according to their consciences - R v PONTING; R v KRONLID
  • as shown in PONTING, jury's decision can be an important statement of public opinion to those in authority, which can't be relied upon; TISDALL was convicted having done the same thing as PONTING who was acquitted.

-Better 'decision making'

  • can be argued that cases ultimately come down to essential facts e.g. dishonesty (in a theft case)
  • a right decision is more likely to be achieved in such circumstances as a result of discussion by unbiased people rather than a judge; individual jurors all form own opinions
  • most jurors only sit a case once in their lives and are therefore not 'case hardened' resulting in them taking their assigned case very seriously
  • recent research by psychologists demonstrates discussions are more organised when the group is around 7 strong; this has triggered suggestions of having no more then 10 jurors or having a facilitator to direct the discussion
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Disadvantages of juries

-Lack of competence

  • Sir Frederick Lawton once stated that 'jurors' understanding of cases and perhaps even intelligence are not always up to the task they have to perform'
  • Lord Denning also argued that jury selection is too wide and suggested that they be appointed in a similar way to magistrates (this would however afford other problems such as; expense, complication and an educated and intelligent jury is less likely to be representative (and just as likely to be biased)
  • Roskill Committee said in cases such as complex fraud cases, a randomly selected jury is not likely to suffice, many jurors are 'out of their depth'; Ingman says 'inexperience and ignorance' can cause jurors to rely too heavily upon what the lawyers tell them and the expense of real issues
  • Roskill Committee could however not find any accurate evidence to suggest juries acquit more often in such cases; Smith and Bailey's research shows juries are capable of coming to fair verdicts in complex cases and the Runciman Royal Society found in serious Fraud trials the juries are slightly more likely to convict
  • despite this, Criminal Justice Bill 2003 intends to allow judges to order trial by judge alone in serious and complex fraud cases

-Jury Nobbling

  • despite introduction of majority verdicts by the Criminal Justice Act 1967, nobbling remains a major weakness
  • rife in Old Bailey trial of 1982
  • brought the need for police protection of the jurors to and from the trial and interception of their calls in the Brinks Mat trial
  • Criminal Procedure Act 1996 created an offence of intimidating or threatening to cause harm to jurors; it went further in s.54 to give the High Court the power to quash an aquittal upon establishing that this occurred ad order a re-trial


  • Ingman suggests jurys may be biased towards certain groups e.g Policeman
  • however, it's likely that in group of 12 individual biases will be cancelled out
  • most conspicuous instances of jury's bias are in libel cases; juries prejudiced against tabloid newspapers and awarded huges amount of damages against them e.g. SUTCLIFFE v PRESSDRAM


  • crown court trial are much more expensive than those in Magistrate's Courts
  • however, the large majority of the cost goes mainly to court personnel (e.g. lawyers) and as most criminal trials last only a day, the maximum cost for juries is only £500

-Difficulties with appeals

  • When judges sit alone, judgement consists of explicit finding of fact whereas, under the Contempt of Court Act 1981, jury deliberations are kept secret giving rise to difficulties when dealing with appeals.
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