Jury can be defined as a body of people sworn to give verdict on the basis of evidence submitted in court. It is an important part of the modern English legal system to achieve justice and to decide innocence or guilt according to facts observed and presented. In this research, the main subject will be how the jury committee are selected, what is exactly the aim behind their presence in courtroom as well as to look at recent law reforms in relation to juries. The topics above will be presented in details, with some examples to support the argument that will include cases and statutes.
Juries are selected at random from the electoral register, which include those registered to vote. The basic qualification for jury service is a simple age and residence qualification. "All registered as parliamentary or local government electors who have been resident in the United Kingdom for at least five years since the age of thirteen, are eligible for jury service"1. A random jury panel is summoned, and the prosecution and defence have a right to see the list of members. The number selected by the panel for the trial is 12.
Certain groups are removed from this poll of eligible jurors, and they are divided into three categories. The first one is" excused persons; those aged between 65 and 70 may opt out of jury service"2 . Members of some professions are excused because of the nature of their work is such that it may not be described for it to be interrupted, rather than because it is thought undesirable to have them deciding the guilt of suspect. Doctors, MPs, armed forces and similar professions are excused.
There is discretion to excuse other if they have done jury service in the previous 2 years. The second category is" exempted persons"3; these people are exempted because it is thought that it would be undesirable for them to be deciding the guilt of defendants. It includes those connected to the courts, the Police, and the legal profession. Finally, comes the "disqualified persons"4, this category includes anyone who has been sentenced to five years or more in prison. An official statement that once a criminal, always a criminal, and never a fit person to decide guilt.
" Those sentenced to less than 5 years in prison from the date of completion of their sentence, and those sentenced to probation are disqualified for 5 years form the end of their sentence"5. It is a criminal offence for a disqualified person to sit on a jury. "Where the offence is a terrorist case or a case involving national security, in which some of the evidence will be heard in camera, certain pre-trial checks known as authorised checks may be permitted of the panel of jurors"6.
The more mundane functions of the jury include listening to the testimony and other evidence provided by the prosecution or defence, the argument of counsel and the summing up and directions of the judges. " It is their function to assess the credibility of a witness, the measure the weight that should be given to any piece of evidence and to determine the existence or non existence of the facts in the case"7. The jury then have to apply their determinations as to the facts to the legal elements in the case.
It is the judge's job to explain what those legal elements in any offence are. This clear demarcation between facts and law often becomes clouded-the definition of many offences include as facts concepts that are relatively imprecise in their definition. " The key elements of theft, for example, are the dishonest appropriation of property belonging to another. Often the key question is whether the defendant acted dishonestly-should the judge leave this to the good sense of the jury or should he give a discretion expanding on the single word and developing a legal definition.
Once the jury has retired, all must await the outcome of their deliberations. None may interfere. The jury will be kept isolated from outside contacts, for days if need be, until a decision is reached. The judge controls the trial and directs the jury, as well as directs the jury to return a verdict. The Criminal Justice Act 1988 abolished the defence's right of peremptory challenge, as a result of high profile pooling of peremptory challenge. This change was unnecessary, since abolition of multiple defendant peremptory challenge would have sufficed.
It also limited the right to stand by for the crown. The only right of challenge jurors is 'for cause' under the juries act 1974, if the juror is not qualified to serve, is biased or is reasonably suspected of bias. The 'Review of Delay'8 in the Criminal Justice System, which reported in 1997, recommended that "defendants should no longer be able to veto the decision of magistrates to retain jurisdiction of cases. " The government's response in its consultation paper that followed the report was that the recommendation was "not accepted.
The Government is not persuaded that the case for removing defendants' right election has yet been made out. However, responded to the consultation exercise indicated that there was considerable support for this proposal, and the government will consider this question further m with a view to publishing a more detailed consultation paper in due course. " "The RCCJ recommended having a minimum of three ethnic minority jurors"9, on application to the judge, where the case has special racial features, and giving people alternative dates for jury service if they cannot make the first date.
This would increase the representation of middle-class persons on juries. It also recommended the disqualification of those on bail from jury service, enacted by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, s. 40, and an increase in allowances. In cases involving members of ethnic minorities," there has been some small evidence of judicial sympathy for the proposition that the jury should contain a proportion of jurors from that ethnic minority"10.
" It has long been accepted that there is residual common law discretion in a trail judge to discharge a particular juror who ought not to be serving on the jury"11 this is part of the judge's duty as far as authorising the summoning of a new panel to achiever racially balanced jury. It was not necessary in "Binns"12 because the jury sworn after the use of the peremptory challenge contained three jurors from ethnic minorities. There could be a minimum standard of literacy and numeracy to ensure that stupid jurors do not serve – particularly in fraud cases, although many other criminal cases are very complicated.
It is said that if the length of trails (particularly fraud trails) were reduced, then juries could be made more representative, since people would be more willing to spend a shorter amount of time doing jury service. At present judges are not allowed to make juries representative or balanced. In "R. v. Ford"13, the court of Appeal in a judgement handed down by the lord chief justice held that the trail judge enjoyed no discretion to interfere with the composition of a jury to secure a multi-racial jury for particular trials. Earlier decisions suggesting otherwise were wrongly decided.
In a statement which stands in marked contrast to the views taken by the judiciary on pre-trail jury checks, the lord chief justice said: 'If it should ever become desirable that the principle of random selection should be altered, that would have to be done by way of statute. It could not be done by any judicial decision'. The Runciman commission was aware of the arguments about racial balance in juries, as well as the ruling in Ford. It recommended that "Ford be reversed to permit a judge to secure a racially mixed jury on application on behalf of the defendant but only in cases presenting unusual special features214.
Such situations would not arise merely because the defendant was black, but especially composed juries might be appropriate where "black people [are] accused of violence against a member of an extremist organisation who they said had been making racial taunts against them and their friends"15. Jurors are now instructed about the meaning of reasonable doubt and as to what their role is, and are directed by the judge to the admissibility of evidence as well as on points of law.
Jurors often cannot understand complicated fraud cases, and as well as in criminal cases are used in civil cases in matters of character. The Roskill Commission" condemned, and recommended the abolishment of, the use of juries in fraud cases, since they are very complicated, and jurors can be very simple"16. Fraud cases involving juries are expensive, and frequently do not reach the correct conclusion through lack of understanding. The jury continues to attract strong public support.
" Juries receive high marks for their work from those involved in the process, though some surprise was expressed at a significant number of acquittals". 17 Juries seem able to cope with the issues raised in most of the cases they hear18. All the evidence shows that jurors approach the task of determining the guilt or innocence of the defendant in a most diligent manner. The jury seems to be good a achieving the objective of securing the acquittal of the innocent, though some have suggested that this is at the price of also acquitting some who are guilty.
This may be no more than a clash between due process and crime control philosophies. From time to time alternatives to the jury are suggested, such as lay assessors sitting with judges or trail by a bench of judges, and examples are given of such systems of criminal trail in other jurisdictions. But it is virtually inconceivable that trail by jury will disappear in the English criminal process; public opinion regards it as a vital part of the trail of serious criminal offences. Though the jury is far from perfect, the alternatives seem even less attractive.