The Jury System

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Handout: The Jury System

I.Development / History

–Frequently claimed that the right of a defendant to elect trial by jury is an ancient one, enshrined in Magna Carta. => In fact, there was no right to claim trial by jury until 1855. –Administration of Justice Act 1855 => Allowed justices (with the consent of the accused) to try various petty thefts. –The Summary Jurisdiction Act 1897 consolidated this earlier legislation, listing those indictable offences, which (with the defendant's consent) could be tried summarily. –Criminal Justice Act 1925 => Until this Act the list was increased. The Act contained a much more extensive list of offences, including: serious theft offences, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and certain forgery offences.

II. Selection / Structure of a Jury

–Since September 2000, jurors are selected for jury service by computer. –The Central Summoning Bureau select jurors from electoral rolls, check for any records of convictions, issue summonses and liaise with the courts on how many jurors are required. –No one has any power to interfere with this process.

–The selection is random=>some people never get called, others may be called several times –A person's chances of doing jury service during their lifetime are about 15%

–Consists of 6 or, mostly, 12 persons.
–USA => A jury is able to decide 11-1 on a verdict.
–England => A jury is able to decide 10-2 on a verdict.

III. Advantages / Disadvanteges
Advantages
–Efficient system, with many success
–Provides an overview of public opinion
–Character and honesty can be judged by ordinary persons, it does not require legal skills. –With 12 people there will be no biases

Disadvanteges
–Slow. Some trials (e.g. fraud) can take many weeks or months. –Young jurors have no life experience.
–For some cases legal skills may be useful
–Can take a long time to reach a verdict
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