Assembling of the Jury System Law Essay

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A jury system is a system whereby trials of criminal matters such as murder, rape, fraud and other relating matters are heard, usually in the Crown Court. The need for a jury arises when a defendant, in a case, pleads not guilty. In very rare cases though such as libel cases, a jury would be summoned in the Civil Court of Law. Jury services are an old custom in the British Law System. These trials by jury was first preserved in law in what the world sees as a first declaration of human rights – the Magna Carta, which documents that in 1215, King John, after a rebellion by his barons, stated that “a free man shall not be imprisoned unless by the judgment of his peers”. Thereafter the right to a jury system was finally recognized in the legal system following the trial of William Penn in 1670. A jury consists of twelve lay members from the electoral register which is randomly chosen by computerized systems at the Central Summoning Bureau at Blackfraiars in London. Not all persons listed on the electoral register would be qualified however. Usually, persons are disqualified due to the following reasons: Persons who at any time been sentenced in the U.K., the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. Persons who are at any time in the last 10 years been apprehended, served any sentence of imprisonment, or a community punishment order, defined in Section 160 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in the U.K., the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

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Persons in the last five years, made in respect of them probation order or a community rehabilitation order. Apart from disqualifiers to a jury, there are exemptions. In essence to R v Guildford Crown Court Expante Sinderfin (1989) 3 ALLER7, the court has the power to excuse a person from jury service where it is felt that the particular juror would not be able to perform the duties properly as a person has conscientious objectives to jury services. This would apply to practicing lawyers for instance. If jurors are chosen through computerized systems, the questions arise, how indeed would administration of justice know the difference between qualifiers and non-qualifiers? Do they have effective and efficient software systems in place for selecting non-qualifiers? To answer these questions, under Section 61 of the Administration of Justice Act, 1982, it is said that questions may be put forward to a prospective juror to ascertain whether he is qualified for jury service at any time and not just when he attends following jury summons. Another vital factor of the selection process is the incorporation of jury vetting, which is necessary as it serves as a precaution against criminal elements, usually conducted by the police. Jurors are expected to be able to work well in teams, possess good decision making skills and competency in self-management. Having a jury system is satisfactory to many since the defendant is not subjected to be judged by the state. This can serve as an advantage to the defendant, depending on the case, in the sense of putting forward views of lay persons, through much deliberation and not the state which may be a more traditional approach. Juries are said to be a very essential check on the criminal justice system. In a recent detailed study into the justice of juries, involving a two year survey of more than one thousand jurors at Crown Courts and a separate study of over sixty eight thousand jury verdicts, tackling racial discrimination, jury conviction rates, juror comprehension and improper conduct, juror use of the internet and media coverage of jury trials. It concludes that juries in England and Wales are fair, effective and efficient according to ULL’s Professor Cheryl Thomas. The report stated as follows: There is no discrimination against black and minority ethnic backgrounds defendants’ who stand before an all-white jury. Juries almost always reach a verdict and convicts two thirds of the time. There are no courts where juries acquit more often than convict.

The study additionally revealed: Jurors want to understand and be provided with more information on how to do their job. Written instructions improve jurors use the internet to look for information about the case on trial. Some jurors find media reports of their case difficult to ignore (can play with jurors’ minds). Each year, it is said that an average of three hundred and ninety thousand British citizens are summoned to do jury service. It is a very principal civic duty, but not a simple one to execute. Jury service can involve some of the most gruesome crimes, or even highly technical and complex evidence to be verified. Jurors’ responsibility is huge since they have to be specific, without any doubt, be accurate about the findings on the defendant in question. Due to this enormous responsibility, jurors’ may be affected in being highly traumatized, distressed or doubtful as a result. More so, they are forbidden from talking about it under the Contempt of Court Act, 1981. Subsequent to the technological and complexity aspects of a case or cases, the question of, if a jury system still works? has surfaced. In recent times psychologists at the University of Leicester conducted a research into how stressful people found the experience. 3Dr. Noelle Robertson stated, that it confirms that jury service can be a source of stress, which for some can be overwhelming, she added they (jurors’) have to discuss evidence and may be under pressure to change their views, people perceive that they have been bullied or hectored, or may be unhappy with the decision. The study concluded that jurors’ need more support aid in preparation and directions for making their decisions and debriefing in traumatic cases. Since they provide no reasoning in arriving a decision on trial, critics would ask, how really do these ordinary people arrive at a decision? Are they really being fair or biased to the defendant in question? Do they really understand the cases, especially the complicated ones? A major concern in even more recent times has shown that because of the misuse of the internet by jurors’, the jury system might, not survive if it is not stopped, according to the most senior judge in England and Wales. Media influences has always been a con to the jury system, however, it really has blown out of proportion now, people are posting details of cases on social networks such as face book and twitter, asking for advice on what verdict should be given. Lord Judge said, that it cannot prevent people from tweeting, but if jurors look at such material, the risks to the fairness of the trial will be very serious, and ultimately the openness of the trial process on which we all rely, would be damaged as a consequent.

The BBC quoted Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, as saying “if the jury system is to survive as the system for a fair trial the misuse of the internet by jurors must stop”. He also stated that the notice in jury rooms be amended to include a warning that such research could be considered as a contempt of court, failing to obey could lead to sentencing jurors. Lord Judge also suggested that sending text messages from court buildings should be banned. In conclusion, the student would have to agree with His Honor Gerald Butler, who is in no doubt, stated that a jury system is not perfect, but it generally works extremely well. He added that juries should be allowed to make a decision about whether expert evidence is accurate, provided they get proper directions from the judge. Likewise, through research, the student has recognized that jurors’ may be taking up the wrong approach of assembling of information and deliberation of the trial in question. However, the student strongly believes that this adverse effect is due to possible faults in the law system, such as not enough data being provided on hand for cases. The student suggests that maybe some sort of debriefing systems be set up to rectify this issue.

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