Jury System

English Legal System
The Jury System
The following are Ineligible:
1) suffering from mental disorders
2) The judiciary and others concerned
with the administration of justice
3) The clergy
(but see the Criminal Justice Bill 2002)
The following are disqualified:
1) Persons with certain criminal
2) Those currently on bail in criminal
Role of the Jury
It is the function of the Jury to decide
on matters of fact.
The judge only decides matters of law.
But note: that the Jury in fact decides
whether a person is guilty on the basis
of their understanding of the law as
explained to them by the judge.
Oath taken by juror
The oath taken by each juror states
that they will “ faithfully try the
defendant and give a true verdict
according to evidence”.
It’s a contempt of court if the jurors fail to come
to a verdict
Failure to come to a verdict
In 1997 Judge Anura Cooray sentenced
two women jurors to 30 days in prison,
for contempt of court for their failure to
deliver a verdict
One of the women who had been the jury
foreman, claimed that the case, involving
allegation of fraud had been too
The other claimed that she could not
ethically come to a decision.
Judges power to direct juries
DPP V Stonehouse (1978)
Judges have the power to direct juries to acquit
the accused where there is insufficient evidence
to convict them.
This is the main safeguard against juries finding
defendants guilty in spite of either the absence
or insufficiency of evidence.
But there is no corresponding powers for the
judge to direct the jury to convict.
Judges power to direct juries
R V Mckenna (1960)
Judges could end up putting “pressure” on juries
to reach a guilty verdict by the way they direct
and sum up the jury.
If this done, it is cause for a retrial.
Facts : Jury asked to come out with a decision
within 10mins after about 2 hours of
Juries powers
Juries do not have to explain the reason for
their decisions to a judge or anyone else.
S8 Contempt of Court Act 1981
It’s a contempt of court to elicit this
information from the Jury.
(One of the weaknesses of the jury system)
Juries powers
R V Clive Pointing (1985)
The jury still passed a verdict of not guilty
despite the judge making it clear beyond doubt
that the defendant was guilty of the Official
Secrets Act 1911
Weakness of the jury system.
The fact that they don’t have to explain their
Juries powers
Pat Pottle and Michael Randall
The accused admitted their guilt in participating
in the open escape of the spy George blake,
the jury returned a not guilty verdict, in open
defiance of the law.
Juries perverse decisions
R v Kronlid (1996)
Facts : three protestors caused criminal damage
to aircrafts that were to be sent to Indonesia for
the use “in genocidal campaign”.
The jury acquitted the three although the three
did not deny causing the criminal damage.
Jury ignoring legal formalities
Even in non political cases, Juries do ignore
legal formalities (not taking into account the
law, facts and evidence).
In Sep 2000, Stephen Owen was charged with
an offence after he had shot at the driver of a
lorry that had killed his child.
The jury refused to find him guilty.
Juries fear to try
Jury trials can put the jury through harrowing
In 2003, two illegal immigrants, Baghad
Meziane and Brahim Benmerzouga, were
convicted of various offences under the
terrorism Act 2000.
They had raised large amounts of money for
Many of the jurors feared reprisals and were
unwilling to sit in the jury.
Appeal from the jury decision
It is an absolute rule that there should
not be an appeal from the juries decision,
to acquit the accused.
S36 Criminal Justice Act 1972
Appeal on points of law allowed
In civil cases juries decision can be overturned if
decision was “perverse”
Majority verdicts
Criminal Justice Act 1967
A majority decision is sufficient,.. if not
less then 11 jurors and 10 agree
10 jurors and nine agree.
Before this act it required an unanimous
Discharge of jurors
The trial judge may discharge the whole
jury if certain irregularities occur.
E.g. if the accused previous convictions
were mentioned in open court
Such a disclosure would be prejudicial to
the accused
Role of the Jury
Criminal Cases :
The Jury decide if the defendant is
guilty or not.
In civil cases the Jury decide if the
claimant has proved their case and the
amount of damages to
Only for Defamation, Malicious
prosecution, false imprisonment and
Procedure to select
Random nature
Officer of the court summons a randomly
selected number of qualified individuals from the
electoral register
from that group, panels of potential jurors for
various cases are drawn up
the actual jurors are then randomly selected by
means of a ballot in open court
Excused as of right
The following are excused as of right:
1) anyone aged 65-70 years old
2) anyone who did jury service in the last
2 years
3) Members of parliament
4) Medical profession
5) armed forces members
6) Practicing members of a religious society
Discretionary power to excuse
Practice Note 1988
The court can excuse the jurors on the
following grounds.
A) personal involvement in case
b) close connection with a party or witness
c) personal hardship
d) conscientious objection to jury service
Jury vetting
The jury may be vet/checked by the
following methods :
1) Checking of criminal records for convictions
R v Mason (1980)
2) Checking of special branch and security
services records in cases involving national
security and terrorist cases.
Attorney General Guidelines in practice note
Challenging the array
The defendant has the right to challenge the
whole jury on the basis that it has been
chosen in an unrepresentative or biased way
Challenging for cause
The defendant and prosecution have the
right to challenge all or individual jurors on the
following grounds :
1) juror is not qualified to serve
2) juror is biased
3) juror may reasonably be suspected of bias
The issue is then tried by the judge
Challenging for cause
The Angry Brigade case (1972) The times 1972
Facts : a group of people was charged with carrying out
a bombing campaign against prominent members of
the conservative government.
In the process of empanelling the Jury, the Judge asked
potential jurors to exclude themselves on a variety of
socio-political grounds, including being active members
of the conservative party.
The Lord Chief Justice issued a practice
directions in which he stated that potential
jurors should not be excluded on account of
1) race, religion, politics or occupation
Challenging on issue of race
R v Danvers(1982)
Facts : The defence had sought to challenge
the array on the basis that a black defendant
could not have complete confidence in the
impartiality of an all white Jury.
Held : The court disallowed the challenge.
Challenging on issue of race
R v Ford(1989)
Facts: the trial judge refused to accept the
defendant’s application for a racially mixed jury.
The CA approved the decision :
“fairness is achieved by the principle of random
selection” and to insist on a racially balanced
jury would be contrary to the principle”.
R v Smith (2003) CA
Reaffirmed the view that it had not been unfair
for smith to be tried with a randomly picked
Racial bias in juries
The case of Kuldip Sander (1995)
Facts : One of the jurors wrote a note to the
judge, during the trial stating that one of the
jurors had made racist jokes openly.
The judge called all of them except the one who
wrote and questioned them on their
He then allowed the jury to sit through the case.
The accused was found guilty.
The appeal to the court of appeal was dismissed.
The ECHR felt that it was contrary to Art 6(1) of
the ECHR.
Right to “stand by” jurors
The prosecution may also require any numbers
of jurors to “standby by” .ie. Not to sit on the
unless there are sufficient members of the panel
to make up a full jury.
For the following reasons :
1) to remove a “manifestly unsuitable juror”
Weakness of jury trial
1) Jury trials cost on an average $13,500
compared with only $2500 for a case tried by
2) As jurors are selected from the electoral
register, they may not be suitable to handle the
complexities in some cases.
3) Juries have come out with “unjustifiable”
decisions, despite clear evidence
Argument for jury trial
1) Historic right to a trial by jury- Public
perception of fair and just
2) right be tried by a member of the public - a
peer and equal
3) some members of the society have little
confidence in the magistrate’s impartiality.
The Runciman Commission
The royal commission on Criminal Justice (1999)
made the following recommendations
In parliament as Criminal Justice Bill 2002 :
1) S8 of the Contempt of Court should be repealed.
2) Electoral rolls should be comprehensive
3) Clergymen and members of religious body should
be eligible
4) Jurors should affirm that they have no disqualifying
5) It should be possible to select at least 03 jurors
from the ethnic minorities
6) P or D should be allowed to argue for the need for
the 03 to be of the same ethnic minority as the
7) Protect jurors from intimidation