Discuss whether trial by jury should be abolished in the English legal system? Critically analyse the advantages and disadvantages of the system.

Topics: Jury, Common law, Jury trial Pages: 7 (2005 words) Published: February 16, 2006
Jury selection is laid down in the Juries Act 1994. While it is proven that there are reasonable alternatives to a jury trial and that there is no doubt that jury trial is both time consuming and expensive when compared with trial by magistrates or by a judge alone, however the right to a jury trial shall not be dismissed so lightly. The anti jury lobby deems the jury system unpopular the importance of which is considered only overrated. I will be critically analysing whether trial by jury should be abolished in the UK legal system plus evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of the system.

Lord Devlin was quoted as saying the jury system is "the lamp that shows that freedom lives". A Jury can decide cases on their idea of fairness, e.g. R v Ponting [1984] civil servant leaked info to a MP on the ground of public interest, jury refused to convict despite no legal defence. Juries are seen as the essence of citizenship, the involvement of ordinary people in government, and in this sense essential to Tony Blair's 'vision'. The jury provides people with experience of the justice system, an educative process inspiring people with confidence that the justice system is working properly. However, this theory is not backed-up by the fact that nearly everyone who is called to do jury service does their level- best to get out of it. Part of the reason is the inadequate recompense, the long waits, abrupt adjournments and inconvenient rescheduling.

Jurors are interviewed to avoid bigots, one cannot always identify a bigot nevertheless there is still less of a risk with 12 jurors than with a single judge that the guilt-determiners' views will influence the verdict. It is said that it is justifiable to have a disparity in the use of criminal and civil juries because in criminal cases, the result will decide someone's future liberty and reputation, but in civil cases only money is at stake. However, this assumes that juries are somehow 'better' that they are more likely to reach 'fair' or 'correct' decisions than properly trained judges. Evidence shows that this is not the case, and therefore, the role of the jury must be purely representative, a symbol that the law is not just locking people.

The judge's direction to a jury can have undue influence, they can effectively be deciding the case (and they do, in the case of directed acquittals), and this can negate the advantages of having a jury system. Juries may be incapable or unwilling to understand proceedings. Runciman Commission (1992): just under 10% of jurors admitted difficulty with a case

The middle class are more likely to have or to be able to devise what is seen as a good excuse for not missing their work, and this results in juries of the unemployed and the working class. Many people find jury service very tedious, and do not pay appropriate attention to their duties; this cannot be advantageous since they may not come to the proper decision. Is it sought-after that people who do not want to be doing jury service should be doing so? Juries do not include as many ethnic minorities as are present in the population as a whole because many are excluded for lack of language skills. Some jurors may be biased, e.g. against the police or racially prejudiced. See R v Gregory [1993](juror showing racial overtones) and research by Baldwin & McConville [1979]: doubt in 5% of cases by professionals.

Particularly vociferous or eloquent juries can influence entire juries, who may be constituted of people apathetic as to the results. This can exacerbate the problems of juries being more vulnerable to bribery, corruption and intimidation, since they are drawn from the wider community. Many jurors can be criminals themselves. Jurors, it is said, are often more impressed by amusing addresses by counsel, or any number of other concerns, irrelevant to the determination of an accused's guilt, than are trained judges or magistrates. The fact that, it is said that juries are...


Bibliography: R v Ponting [1984]
R v Randle and Pottle (1991)
The Administration of Justice, White Robin 1947 Blackwell, 1991. 2nd Edition
The administration of the courts MacDonald, John, 1931
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