The Role of the Jury in a Crown Court

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The Role of the Jury in a Crown Court


For all court appearances, jurors are selected randomly, by an
official at the crown court from the electoral registers. In order to
be selected for a jury the person must be: between the ages of 18-70;
have lived in the country for at least 5years and be registered as a
parliamentary elector.

In 2003 a new act was passed, The Criminal Justice Act, this meant
that everybody was eligible to be called for jury service. This new
act does not excuse anyone in the legal profession, justice system or
the health system. The only people who don't have to serve jury
service are those who are disqualified. Disqualifications include:
those who have served a prison sentence of 5years or more; those who
have served a prison sentence in the last 10years; those who are
currently performing community service; and those who are currently on
bail at the time of being called for jury service.

Once a jury has been selected they have to go through a process called
vetting. This process allows officials to check both the criminal and
political views of each member of the jury. Every juror is checked by
the police for any evidence of criminal activity and in some cases
they are checked to see if their political beliefs and background may
interfere with their judgement.

Political vetting came to light during the 'ABC' trial, where two
journalists and a soldier were in court for breech of the official
secrets act. Political vetting was being checked by the police and
once they were discovered a re trial was immediately ordered.

The Attorney General (A.G.) is the person who decided when political
vetting was allowed and his conclusions were; that it was only allowed
in terrorist cases and national security issues. Any other case that
wishes to have their jury politically vetted, must first gain the
permission of the Attorney General. The role of the jury in a Crown
Court is very important as they are the ones who have to decide

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whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. During a Crown Court
case, the jury must listen to the evidence very carefully making notes
on the facts and evidence to help make their decision correct. When
doing this they must apply the law to the given facts and not be
persuaded by the barristers' ethnicity or background. Whilst the
barrister and the judge are discussing points of law the jury are
dismissed so don't have to spend all their time in the Court room.

Once the case has finished, the jury are sent to a private room in the
chambers of the Court where the group elects a foreman. After this
they have two hours to reach a verdict which has to be a unanimous
decision, which the foreman will later announce in Court. During their
two hours, the jury have to carefully review and discuss the facts of
the case. However, if the jury are unable to agree on a decision
unanimously the judge may accept a majority of ten to two or eleven to
one. If the majority is less than this, the jury is given extra time
to decide the final verdict - guilty or not guilty. Once the jury do
come to a decision they don't have to give their reason for their
choice and then the sentencing is left to the judge.

Juries are only needed in cases where the defendant pleads 'not
guilty' so their role is extremely important as their decision will
affect the defendants for the rest of their life.

b) Consider whether jury trials should be abolished.

Many people have their own views on jury trials and whether they are
good or should be abolished.

Some people like to argue that some cases are too complicated for the
jury to understand, and that many jurors don't understand the correct
court procedures. An example of this could be in the R v Young case,
in this case the jury attempted to contact the dead using an Ouija
board as they could not come to a decision. In this case it shows that
the jury perhaps weren't acting in the correct manor for a Crown Court
case. Many people also argue that jurors are too easily persuaded and
can be bought over by simple factors such as the language, vocabulary
and tone the barristers' use which may stop them from concentrating on
all the facts right. It is also argued that some members of the
general public do not have very long attention spans so do not take it
very seriously. In one case, write about in the Daily Mail, a woman in
the jury was court filing her nails and reading a magazine during a
case.

Jury cases, as well as being time consuming, are very expensive, and
this leads to one of the strongest arguments of why they should be
abolished. Recently, jury trials have become even more expensive due
to the new Criminal Justice Act. This is because this rule allows
every one to serve jury service which leads to more delays and
therefore more expenses. This is because members of the judiciary who
sit in the jury may know the barrister, judge or solicitor in the case
so have to be continuously moved to different cases until they don't
know anybody. The introduction of this new act means that there is
also more chance of the jury being influenced by other jury members -
especially if there are any judiciary members on the bench. This may
lead to the defendant not receiving a fair trial which is the reason
behind jury trials.

Although there are many reasons why people wish to have jury trials
abolished there are also many advantages to them.

Many people feel that a jury trial is fairer as the defendant is tried
by twelve random individuals and this leads to minimal biases as it is
more than one person's opinion. The members of the jury, members of
the general public, will also be able to relate to the defendant and
their culture more and this leads to the defendant feeling he is being
tried by his own peers making the whole court procedure more bearable.

From these reasons I can see why people want to abolish the jury
trials, but equally why there are many people who want to keep the
traditional style of Crown Court cases. In my view they should keep
the jury trials as the main factor I feel is how the defendant feels
during the whole case as they may be innocent and would much prefer to
be tried by a jury containing members of the general public.


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