Jury Trial

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Jury Trial The history of jury trial dates back many centuries in which time the role and status of jury members have changed considerably as have the number and range of cases tried by the jury system. A major milestone in the history of juries was in Bushell's Case (1670), that established that the juries were the sole judges of fact, with the right to give a verdict according to conscience. They could not be penalized for taking a view of the facts opposed to that of the judge. The importance of this power today is that juries may acquit a defendant, even when the law demands a guilty verdict. In contemporary society, the jury is considered a fundamental part of the English legal system, and it occupies an almost sacred place in the public's imagination. It has been referred to as the " lamp that shows freedom lives" by Lord Devlin and Jack Straw (former Home Secretary) said that it is a " key freedom in our democracy". Despite its historical role and the sentimental attachments, the jury system has come under increasing attack in recent years. It is a political issue about which there is much excited, and lamentably cliched debate. The jewel of the British legal system is supposed to be the jury - twelve fair-minded people standing between the might of government and an accused individual. Their power of a verdict according to conscience is enshrined as a bulwark against oppressive measures of the state. Lord Devlin may be deemed to be somewhat misty-eyed in his confidence in the "twelve good men". Since the 1970s, faith in the jury system has gradually dissolved. Successive governments have sought to restrict the use of jur... ... middle of paper ... ...y for cases considered to be complex. There are constructive reforms that fall way short of restriction of the right to trial by jury e.g. October progress report expressed proposals to improve representation on jurors by making it more difficult for potential jurors to be excused. All in all, it appears that the jury system is a key figure in our society. Perhaps a fundamental overhaul of the jury system with regards people escaping duty and to ensure that they are more representatives of the population would not be out of the question. Independence! Openness! Public Involvement! How important are these features of jury trial considered to be in our criminal justice system? Either we want a democratic element maintained in our system or we don't. Either we trust the judgement of twelve ordinary citizens or we don't.

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