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The Jury System in the Uk

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The Jury System in the UK

What is a jury?

“A body of usually twelve persons [people] sworn to render [give] a verdict on the basis of evidence submitted to them in a court of justice” (Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1990, ed R E Allen)

Who can be a juror in the UK?

“You could be selected to serve on a jury if you [comply with all of the following criteria]:

  • will be aged at least 18, and less than 70 [raised to 75 now?], on the day jury service will start
  • are on a parliamentary or local electoral register
  • have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for a period of at least 5 years since 13 years of age”

UNLESS [all or any of the following] you:

  • “have ever been sentenced to imprisonment for five years or more, or for an indefinite amount of time
  • have been subject to imprisonment or detention at all in the past 10 years, or received a suspended sentence or order for such
  • are suffering from a severe mental disorder or lacking mental capacity

There are certain jobs that are very likely to prevent one from sitting on the jury [ e.g.] being a member of the armed forces. Medical professionals and MPs are unlikely to end up on a jury, as is anyone whose job requires them to have a specific interest in the law, such as a solicitor, a police officer, or a judge.”[28jul2016]

What about bias or prejudice?

“If it is possible that you could bring some kind of bias into your decision making as a juror, this may well be enough to have you removed as a juror from a trial. This could be because the trial is regarding something that has affected you personally – an example would be a trial in which the defendant is accused of a crime that has been committed against you recently.

A juror could also be considered to have prejudice if you they know anyone involved in the case, or if they know too much about the case going in. A history of racial or ethnic bias against the ethnicity of a participant in the trial (including the judge) could also be a factor.

However, as these conditions are likely to be specific to a particular trial, it is likely that your service will be deferred to another trial.” [28jul16]

Which courts do juries appear in?

For criminal cases: in the Crown Court

For civil cases: in the High Court and County Court

Criminal courts:

  • Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
  • Court of Appeal 
  • High Court of Justice 
  • Crown Court 
  • Magistrates' courts 

Civil and family courts:

  • Supreme Court of the United Kingdom
  • Privy Council
  • Court of Appeal 
  • High Court of Justice 
  • County Court 
  • Family Court
  • Court of Protection

How is a jury chosen?

Names are randomly chosen from the electoral register of everyone eligible for jury service.  This is done by the Jury Central Summoning Bureau (JCSB).

For details see: [28jul16]

What percentage of cases in the UK have a jury?

Criminal: “95% of the cases are heard in the magistrates’ courts, where the juries have no role (this also includes those cases in which accused pleads guilty in either way offences). Out of the remaining 5% of the cases heard in the Crown Court, in majority of the cases either defendant pleads guilty, so there is no need of a jury or the judge directs the jury that law demands that they acquit the defendant. As a result, the juries actually decide only around 1% of criminal cases. But on the other hand this 1% amounts to 30,000 trials and these are the most serious ones come before the court.”

Civil: “The erosion of the use of the juries in civil cases was gradual and appears to have started in the middle of nineteenth century, when judges were given right in certain situations, to refuse to let a case be heard before a jury and to insist that it be heard in front of a sole judge. As a result, the use of jury in civil cases is now almost obsolete. The Supreme Court Act 1981 gives a qualified right to jury trial in the following four cases only: libel and slander; malicious prosecution; false imprisonment; and fraud.” [28jul16]

What do juries decide?

At the end of the trial,*  the judge will sum up the case to the jury. The jury will then retire to decide on their verdict (guilty or not guilty).

The jurors do not play any part in sentencing (i.e. what the exact punishment will be - unlike in the USA).      (*Note –the word ‘trial’ is not used in civil cases).

What are majority verdicts?

“The jury will be told when they first retire that they must reach a unanimous verdict. Since 1974 juries have been allowed, in certain circumstances, to reach a majority verdict. This is a verdict of 11-1 or 10-2. If some jurors have been discharged during the trial, perhaps because of illness, then if there are 11 jurors there can be a verdict of 10-1. If there are 10 jurors, then 9-1 is acceptable. If there are 9 or fewer jurors then the verdict has to be unanimous.” [28jul16]

What reasons do juries give (for their verdict)?

“Juries do not give reasons. When they are ready to give their verdict, they will be asked in court whether they find the defendant ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty’. That is the only thing that the foreperson of the jury will say.

Juries are not asked their reasons and it is in fact illegal for them to say afterwards how they voted or why they came to the verdict that they did. “ [28jul16]

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