The Composition and Role of the Jury

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The Composition and Role of the Jury The jury has been a feature in criminal trials in England for hundreds of years. It is a civic duty that consists of 12 people aged 18 to 70 who are chosen at random from the electoral register (Before 1972 property qualifications were required in order to be eligible for the jury). Mentally Disordered or any person with a recent or serious conviction is disqualified from jury service along with anyone who has ever been sentenced for 5 years imprisonment or more and anyone who has completed a shorter sentence within the last ten years or community service within the last 5. Also anyone who has any connection with the victim, the defendant or any of the witnesses is unable to serve. If jurors don't attend they may face a possibility of punishment for contempt of court. Jurors can be granted excusal from jury service but only in exceptional cases for reasons such as ill health, examinations or specific domestic or business problems. Once the jury have been selected and sworn the jury's role is to act as judge of fact. In cases the jury must use their experiences of human nature and usually they must use experience of life rather than any legal knowledge to decide a verdict. In 1974 Lord Salmon estimated that about 2% of cases brought before the jury are wrongly acquitted and about 5% of the convictions in Birmingham were considered "doubtful" and even though there is always a risk of convicting an innocent this figure is considered unacceptably high. Appeals against convictions solely on evidence are very rarely successful. About one third of the jury's acquittals were questionable and were said to be mainly down to feeling sympathy for the defendant or a general mistrust of the police evidence. However although only 2% of cases brought before the jury are wrongly acquitted people still stand divided on how beneficial and fair the jury system is, and although the jury has been around for a long time, is it now time to replace it with an alternative?
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