Jury System Criminal | Criminal Law Essay

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Jury System Criminal

The issue, under discussion is The historic decline of trial by Jury is to be welcomed. Trial by Jury serves no useful function and should therefore be abolished. Abolition or alteration of the Jury System is urgently necessary to maintain the relative speed of progress with the rest of the Civil and Criminal Justice System. A positive approach is need to ensure that racist juries do not undermine the race training of Judges, and to guarantee impartiality for all, regardless of colour or ethnic origin.

The present system of Trial by Jury have a is flawed in that it allows anyone who is eighteen years of age or older to sit on a Jury. This means that people who are not particularly intelligent, to put it generously can decide upon a person’s guilt. Therefore, changed to improve the Jury System would ensure compliance with the European Convention for Human Right 1950.

Common law refers to the substantive law and procedural rules that have been created by the judiciary though the decisions in the cases they have heard. Statute law refers to the law that has been created by legislative assembly of the United Kingdom in the form of legislation.

Juries consist of a body of 12 citizens sworn to give a true verdict to the evidence in a Court of law. The jury trial was held sacred as a constitutional right in Magna Carta 1215, Clause 39, which provide for a trial.The independence of Jury from Judge was established in the case of R v Bushell’s [1670] Vaugh 135 (CCCP).

According to Devlin who cites Blackstone, each Jury is a little legislative assembly. He illustrates and justifies the Jury as a symbol of participatory democracy. The Civil Liberty Group claims that the trial by random Jury is historically not precisely accurate.

The way in which the Jury is constituted affects its decision- making. Service is technically obligatory. However, there were until recently a wide range of circumstances in which people either were not allowed to serve, or could choose not to.Before 2004, around 480,000 people were called annually for service. More than half were ineligible disqualified or excused from service.

For this reasons, there was concern that the composition of Juries was not representative. This contention was not supported by investigation into Jury composition carried out by the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice in 1993, which concluded that, in terms of gender, ethnicity and class Juries were generally representative of the population as a whole.

In addition, the Commission did suggest that the rules of governing who could sit on a Jury should change with the objective to improve the diversity of the makeup of the Juries. Under these rules, some groups such as those with certain criminal records or mental illness, members of the clergy and people who worked in the Criminal Justice System suchas Judges, law to sitting on as Jury disqualified Lawyers, and police officers were disqualified from sitting on Jury.

In the case of R v Abdroikov[2007] UKHL 37, three cases were heard together on appeal. In two of these cases, a police officer had been on the Jury; in the third case, a Crown Prosecution Service solicitor was on the Jury. The defendants appealed on the basis that these made the trials appear unfair. The supervisor of the Jury sent a note to the Judge revealing that he was a serving police officer.

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In R v Williamson [2007] UKHL 37, case one of the Jurors wrote to the Court before the trial began to say that he worked for the Crown Prosecution Service and had done so since its inception in 1986. His letter was passed to defending Counsel who sought to challenge the Juror on the grounds of potential biasand the defendant’s right to fair trial under Article (6) of the Convention for Protection of Human Rights Fundamental Freedoms. The Judge ruled that he could see no objection to the Juror sitting in the light of the current legislation.

In these cases, the House of Lords on 28 July 2005 dismissed the appeal of defendant Abdroikov, but allowed the appeal of defendant R v Green [2007[UKHL 37. In addition, the House of Lords allowed the appeal of the defendant Williamson.

The Auld Report, in 2001, supported the argument of the Royal Commission that these rules should be reformed in order to increase the representativeness of the Juries. This recommendation was included under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which removed the concept of exclusion as right and abolished the categories of ineligibility.

In consideration of membership of the Jury, Section (321) of Schedule (33) to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 substitutes new action to enforce the Juries Act 1974, which states that every person meeting the requirement to serve as a Juror in the Crown Court, the High Court and County Courts and liable to attend for Jury service if summoned.

In respect of disabilities, the 1974 Act determined that the Court could exclude anyone from Jury service because of physical disability or of inability to understand English, which makes his ability to act as a Juror uncertain. Section (18) provides that no judgement after verdict should be cancelled by reason that any Juror was disqualified or unfit to serve, for example, in the caseof R v Chapman [1976] 63 Cr APP R 75.

According to Lord Woolf C J, “a fair-minded and informed observer would not conclude that there was a real possibility that a Juror was biased merely because his occupation was one which meant that he was involved in some capacity or other in the administration of Justice”. Prior To April 2004, people who were involved in the administration of Justice were ineligible to sit as Jurors. The Criminal Justice Act 2003 removed this ineligibility.

The Royal Commission recommended allowing the defence or prosecution the right to request at least one juror of the same ethnic origin as the defendant. The Auld Report supported this change but it has not to date been implemented. In the case of R v Ford [1989] 3ALL ER 445, on 25 July 1989, a defendant who was of a mixed race applied for a multi-racial Jury. The Jury panel was entirely white. The defendant appealed on the grounds because the Judge was wrong in refusing the application.

In this case, Lord Lane CJ said that the Judge had no power to select a multi-racial Jury. The jurisdiction over Jury panels was the Lord Chancellor under Section (5) of the Jury Act 1974.Furthermore; Sir Robin Auld has made a proposal report referring to the composition of ethnic mix Juries. He said that in trial by Jury 12 men and women are chosen at random from the community in which the case is being tried in a Court. He concluded that Juror from the same community in which the crime was committed and where the defendant and any victim live might be biased in favour of the defendant.

The Juries also often do not understand the evidence, and reach a verdict based on inappropriate criteria or methods. In one infamous case, the Court of Appeal quashed a conviction when it was found that verdict was reached a guilty by four Jury in a murder case using an Ouija spirit board R v Young [1995] QB 324.

Jury are protected from pressure and outside influences when deciding a verdict. They can decide cases based on their own ideas of justice, contrary to the legal advice. For example, in the case of R v Ponting [1985] Crim LR 318, a civil servant leaked information to a MP on the grounds of public interest. Defendant was charged under the Official Secret Act 1920. The Jury refused to convict despite no legal defence.

In addition, the Jury can reach perverse decisions, which are not justified. Juries have refused to convict in clear-cut cases as in the case of R v Randle and Pottle [1991] Alliott J, where the defendants wrote a book 25 years later about helping a famous spy, George Blake, to escape from prison. They argued that their actions were justified because of the severity of Blake’s punishment.

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Obtaining reliable evidence about the overall quality of Jury verdicts is hampered by the fact that under the Contempt of Court Act 1981 Section (8) it is contempt to publish or make a solicitation for publication details of what happens in a Jury room as illustrated in the case of Attorney General v Associated Newspapers [1994] 1 ALL ER 556.

According to the law, itis punishable with a fine or a prison sentence. Juries deliberate and no one can inquire into what happens in the Jury room.

In the 1990s, the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice argued for the repeal of this provision to allow for academic research into Juries and the Government supported this change. However, no progress was made on this issue until 2005 when the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, issued a consultation paper on the Jury that sought opinions on a proposal to change the law to allow research into how Jurors in England and Wales reach their decisions.

The European Court of Human Rights decided that a trial Judge had not properly directed the Jury on the issue of the applicant silence during police interview. As a result theapplicant did not receive a fair trial with the meaning of Article (6) (1) of the European Convention of Human Rights 1950, which states that everyone is entitled to a fair hearing. The case of Condron and others v United Kingdom [2000] EHRR1 is an example.

The application was also submitted in the European Commission of Human Rights on 13 November 1996. In its judgement, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been violation of Article (6) (1). This was because the Judge in the case had not properly directed the Jury on the issue of the defendant silence was negative. The Judge said this was with reference to Section (34) of the Criminal Justice and Public order Act 1994.

Both Conservative and Labour governments, agreed on the need for reform of the Jury System. They have introduced a range of measure, which have reduced the role of the Jury. These changes are probably driven as much by economic reasons as by errors of Jury verdicts. Legislation in the 1970s restricted the range of offences for which the defendant could elect trial by Jury. More recently, the Criminal Justice Act 1988 classified certain offences such as driving, common assault and battery as summary offences only.

Jack Straw the Justice Secretary, aimed to cut an extra 2,000 Jury Trials. He said that his bill meant that Jurors were denying more defendants trial. The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Bingham Cornhill, and the Magistrates’ Association, both supported his plans and expressed concern over the provisions of bill .

However, opposites were infuriated by the bill, which removes the automatic right to Jury Trial for 18,500 defendants a year charged with middle ranking offences such as theft and burglary.

According to the Bar Council, government plans to cut a defendant’s right to choose Jury trial in a wide range of middle- ranking cases will hit black defendants hardest. In addition, the plans, strongly, opposed by the legal profession and civil liberties groups. The bill will remove the right to elect Jury trial for a number of offences including theft and grievous bodily harm, drug offences and indecent assaults. Furthermore, Courtenay Griffiths, QC, of the Society of Black Lawyers, said that“ the evidence is that black defendants see Magistrates Courts as police Courts.

A fair a hearing from randomly selected panel of Jurorsgreatly enhances the confidence that minority communities have in the Justice System”. He added that the inquiry into the death of Stephen Lawrence showed all too clearly what can happen when a section of the community no longer has confidence in the Justice System”.

Straw said that because of his changes up to 2,000 fewer defendants would have their cases heard by Judges Juries because JPs would no longer be taking account of the impact on jobs or reputation. He concluded that “magistrates will hear more cases”. Critics had said that the original bill would lead to two levels of justice, as middle- class professionals are more likely to receive a Jury trial.

Mr Straw accused Dan Brennan, Chairman of the Bar of acting like a Trade Union leader to secure barristers’ incomes. He claimed that barristers and lawyers knew that many defendants were working the Legal System by requiring trials at the Crown Court in an attempt to delay legal proceedings and Justice. The House of Lords threw out Jack Straw’s bill to curb a defendant is right to trial by Jury.

The ability of Juries to follow what goes on in Court has several times been questioned. the accusation of lack of understanding on the part of juries tends to arise with particular regularity in relation to complex company law and fraud trials.

Lord Justice Henry said that in fraud trials Juries take too long to reach a verdict, Juries are without fixed limits as to time and cost, they are insufficiently concentrated on the real issues. Richard Ferguson claimed that Juries are able to handle the issue of dishonesty, but had very considerable doubt that they can handle technical matters.

According to former Home Office, Secretary John Reid, fraud trials without a Jury are consistent with Human rights. His statement was under Section 19(1) (a) of the Human Rights Act 1998. Section 43 (2) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides for the prosecution for fraud to be conducted without a Jury. Therefore, the Judge of the High Courtwould benominated to exercise the jurisdiction of the Crown Court.

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In a fraud case at Southwark Crown Court in 2003, the prosecution was Counsel Richard Latham. A female Juror sent to the prosecution a bottle of champagne and a invitation to a dinner date with the question“ what does a lady need to do to attract your attention?”. The Barrister returned the gift and reported it to the Court. The defendants launched a failed attempt to appeal against their conviction on the ground the Juror had been biased in the prosecution’s favour.

In conclusion, there are a number of reasons in favour of cutting the power of juries. It would not undermine public confidence in the jury, but would instead enhance it by eliminating the risk of obviously unjust judgements where the victim of the crime was for any reason the subject of public hostility, perhaps because of his race, ethnic origin, religion, or sexual tendency.

It is for Parliament to ordain the law, and not for juries to resist the enforcement of laws punctually enacted. Change in the law, the United Kingdom will ensure compliance of the Article (6) of the European Convention of Human Rights the right 150 to a fair trial. Jury trial should abolished because Jury is not legal qualified, this is the reason that some Jury do not understand the case which they are trying. Single Judge and lay assessors should hear trial, Scandinavian Countries and Northern Ireland is an example.


Chris, G. Coalition of peers defeats Bill to cut defendants’ right to trial by jury. Independent, 29 September 2000.

Donald, R. European Court, and Right to Silence. The times, 09 May 2000.

Gibb, F. Straw deal will cut. The Times, 25 February 2000.

Keenan, D. (2007).The English Legal System (15th ed), The Jury Trial (pp. 141-151) (London: Longman, 2007).

Law Gazette. Trial by Error.Gazette, 28 September

Lord Chancellor’s Department. Reducing the Trial of Jury Service. Press Notice, 31 August 2000.

Martin and Chris Turner. (2006). The English Legal System, Key Cases ( 1st ed ), ( pp.72-87). London: Holder Education.

Macmillan, P. (2006) Evidence (3rd rd). New York: St Martin’s Press.

Richard, F. Straw takes on opponents of jury changes. The times, 20 November 1999.

Slapper, G and Kelly, D. (1996). SourceBook on English Legal System (1st ed), (pp.503-530). London: Cavendish Publishing Limited.

The Unite Kingdom Parliament : Fraud Trial Without a Jury ( The UK Parliament no 1-2, 2006/07.



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