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Juries - advantages and disadvantages
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Advantages

Disadvantages

Provides certainty, no retrial (subject to recent reforms but only for serious crimes).

On acquittal there can be no retrial (subject to recent reforms but only for serious crimes).

Retrial available in tainted cases (nobbling) Section 54 Criminal Procedure and Investigation Act 1996.

 

Section 51 Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994 creates offence to intimidate or threaten to harm a juror.

Jury nobbling believed to be frequent resulting in wrongful acquittals.

 

No enquiry allowed into jury deliberations after verdict, even if juror alleges racial or any other type of bias or wrongdoing by the jury.

Prosecution and defence "challenges" correct the problems caused by random selection.

Jury vetting is against the principle of random selection.

95% of cases dealt with by magistrates, so not a great cost as a percentage spent of the CJ system.

 

Public acceptability of jury decisions.

Expense of jury trial.

 

Defendants manipulate the system.

Perverse verdicts enjoy public respect.

 

Avoiding unjust law or precedents without breaking them.

 

Perverse verdicts undermine the principle of justice, and the rule of law. (and are actually very rare)

 

Defying the will of the democratically elected legislature.

Perverse jury verdicts can provide a "criminal equity".

 

Juries return the wrong verdict - series of miscarriages of justice undermine confidence.

 

Jurors may be tempted to reach a quick verdict in order to get it over with and go home.

 

Law on jury secrecy could allow the innocent to remain convicted rather than make reasonable enquiries into how verdict was obtained (R v Mirza)

Involvement of lay people. Trial by peers.

 

Juries include many ethnic minorities as a percentage of the whole population (11.5% are non-white, British - 2001 census), which is wrongly thought to be higher.

Selection of juries to obtain racial mix not allowed.

 

Ethnic minorities often do not register to vote.

 

Ethnic minorities do not have the language skills to be effective jurors.

Independent of the executive and the judiciary. 

 

With 12 people any bias is likely to be cancelled out

Can be biased against one party or the other.

 

Local prejudice can be a problem in particularly emotive cases Litchfield moved to Exeter for this reason.

Common sense; judge strength of witnesses' evidence themselves.

Are mislead by barristers' techniques as to strength of evidence.

Apply common values, e.g. what is "dishonest"

Judge has to explain legal matters.

Majority verdicts allow justice when there is a 'rogue' juror.

Majority verdicts can convict when there is doubt which should have been given to the defendant.

Many judges believe jurors usually return the right verdict, very few appeals from jury verdicts.

 

High correlation in USA studies of jury/judge verdicts.

Easily influenced by impressive barristers, or the judge.

 

 

Juries not required to give reasons for verdicts.

Judge can correct any unfairness of the array.

Insufficient intellect.  Cannot follow complicated tax or fraud cases. Note: can be judge-only trial in some cases.

Provide a barometer of public opinion.

Inconsistencies throughout the country.

 

Young jurors no life experience.

Ordinary honest citizens applying local knowledge and values.

 

Reputed to do their best according to the law.

Jury members can have a string of convictions not serious enough to disqualify. 

 

Also, disqualified jurors still find their way into the jury box.

Civic duty a rare opportunity for citizenship

Role of the jury is merely symbolic of public involvement.

 

Can become bored during the trial.

 

Inconvenience and financial loss to jurors.

Efficient system, with 800 years of success.

 

Slow. Some trials e.g. fraud can take many weeks or months.

 

Lack of research defies assessment.

Character and honesty can be judged by ordinary persons, it does not require legal skills.

Horrific cases can seriously affect jurors who have to sit through harrowing evidence.

Public confidence.

The existence of juries distract from real problems in the criminal justice system people believe their existence means the CJ system is functioning well.

Defendants can elect jury trial.

Many serious cases do not provide for jury trial, for example drink driving.

 

There is no choice but jury trial in indictable offences, summary trial cannot be elected.

Juries do understand the burden of proof, and lower it in paedophile cases and child murders.

Juries do not understand the burden of proof.

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