Juries have been regarded as the cornerstone of our criminal justice system in Australia since 1824 when juries were first introduced, however many argue they are an outdated form of determining the outcome of trials. Some of the reasons why juries are outdated are that jurors don’t realise how long some trials go for and there are too many complex documents to consider in coming up with a verdict of some trials. Another reason is the people that serve on juries are the least qualified people. Juries can be defined as a group of citizens which hears the testimony in legal disputes and determines what it believes is the truth (Family Friendly Jury Duty, 2013).
Juries were first introduced in 1215 by King John through the Magna Carter. The Magna Carter was a document that King John was forced to sign by his subjects the Feudal Barons and it was meant to limit his power by law and to protect their rights. One of the articles states “No freeman shall be imprisoned, deprived of property, exiled, or destroyed, except by the lawful judgment of his peers (equals) or by the law of the land. ” The trial by jury is said to have developed from this.
The word jury is derived from the French jurer, which means "to swear an oath” (Family Friendly Jury Duty, 2013). In Queensland the roles that juries play and everything concerning juries is defines in the Jury Act 1995. There are many reasons why juries should be abolished, firstly jurors that show up to serve on juries are usually the least qualified to serve on them. The Queensland Justice department states that “The people who typically turn up for jury service are typically people who don't have to be anywhere else that week. ”
This means that the people who turn up are the people who don’t have a job and in some cases the least qualified people to serve on a jury which is the reason that 71% of jurors don’t understand the directions (Asher Flynn, 2012). Furthermore only a small minority of people turn up to serve on juries. On average 416 jury notices have to be sent out to fill a 12 person jury (Hurst, 2010), this is a huge waste of time for the Justice Department to send out all of the notices for people to serve on juries and it costs an average of $208 per trial to send them out.
Overall juries are outdated because the jurors that attend their jury duty are the last qualified to serve on juries and most people do not turn up to serve on juries. Trials that involve complex documents can also be too hard for juries to decide properly whether the defendant is guilty or innocent. An instance where this can be a problem is in fraud trials because there is a considerable amount of complex financial documents involved in the trial. “The volume and complexities of the issues and the evidence, especially in specialist market frauds, may be too difficult for them to understand or analyse . . . ” (Auld 2001).
This quote says specifically that in complex cases like fraud that jurors are just not equipped to handle and analyse the documents involved which means that juries cannot come up with a verdict that is accurate if all of the documents are not considered, therefore juries should not be used. Furthermore Justice Whealy states that “The nature of modern transactions and financial markets meant that in some cases even a trained business mind would have difficulty coming to an informed conclusion as to an accused’s guilt. ”
This means that even a juror trained in business may not understand the documents but in trials that have Sam Kruger Legal 2014 these types of documents in them jurors are expected to take all of the documents into account when assessing the defendant’s guilt without even understanding what the documents are about. With the two above statements in mind it can clearly be seen that juries cannot be expected to make a verdict on cases if the defendant wants to have a fair trial and therefore juries are an outdated method to find a verdict for trials in court. Sam Kruger Legal 2014 Finally Jurors don’t realise the length of some trials and it can lead to poor judgement and the loss of tax payer’s money.
In the trial of R v Lonsdale and Holland the whole jury had to be discharged because 5 of the jurors were caught for playing Sudoku in the juror’s box while the trial was being held (Knox, 2008). The drug trial had been going on for 66 days with 105 witnesses. The trial had to be restarted and new jurors sworn in. All up the trial had already cost tax payers over $1 million but because of the jurors this money had to be wasted (Knox, 2008).
One of the Jurors at the trial stated “It was quite an interesting trial but a NUMBER OF THE JURORS WERE GETTING VERY FRUSTRATED AND MADE COMMENTS LIKE "I JUST WANT TO GET MY LIFE BACK". BECAUSE THE ISSUE IS THAT YOU'RE ESSENTIALLY LOCKED EITHER IN A COURT ROOM OR IN A JURY ROOM. LITERALLY WHEN YOU GO INTO THE JURY ROOM THE SHERIFF LOCKS THE DOOR AND YOU ARE STUCK IN THERE AND YOU'RE NOT EVEN ALLOWED TO GO OUT FOR LUNCH. YOUR MOBILE PHONES ARE TAKEN AWAY FROM YOU AND YOU'RE ESSENTIALLY A CAPTIVE OF THIS PROCESS AS WELL FOR AS LONG AS THE TRIAL GOES ON. ” WITH THIS COMMENT IT CAN BE SEEN THAT JURORS DO NOT LIKE THE FACT THAT TRIALS TAKE SO LONG AND HOW THEY ARE TAKEN OUT OF THEIR LIVES.
Although many people argue that juries are outdated, many also argue that trials by juries are a good thing. Thomas Jefferson said “I consider trial by jury as the only anchor yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution. ” This means that in his opinion juries are the best way to determine the outcome of trials. It is also argued that since there are 12 jurors it eliminates bias from trials. When tried by jury the idea is that it is a trial by your peers and they are more likely to relate to the defendant’s situation better.
The outcome needs to be unanimous and with 12 jurors it is more likely that all 12 of the jurors won’t make a mistake (Nedim, 2013). The jury system should be updated to one of three possibilities each with their advantages and disadvantages. Firstly it can be changed to a judge and lay assessors which is people from the community that have to serve for a set period of time. This is a better system because it frees up time for the Justice System because they don’t have to chase people up to be on jury duty. It is better for everyone because they only have to serve for a set period of time and then they are done for the rest of their lives and it is better for judges because the assessors will only have trials for the same type of crime.
The judge won’t have to waste time explaining the law to them because they will already have experience. The disadvantage to this solution are that it will cost more money to pay the assessors and it may result in less of a variety of people which can mean that there could be bias. Secondly the jury system can be changed to a judge and a panel of experts in the field of the trial, this will help get fairer trials because the complex documents that are presented at the trial will be able to be considered because the experts will understand them and therefore be able to take them into account. It will also save the Department of Justice time because the potential jurors that are qualified is smaller and the jurors will be more interested in attending the trial because it is in an area that interests them.
The negatives of this solution are that it will cost more money to pay the experts and the diversity of the juror will be smaller which can cause there to be bias in the decisions made. Thirdly the jury system can be changed to a judge and professional jurors who have been trained and paid to sit in on trials. This can be good for judges because it will save time at the start of the trial because they don’t have to explain the laws to the jurors. It is also good for the Department of Justice because they don’t have to chase people to sit in on a trial because there is a list of people that will do it. It is also good for people because they don’t have to worry about doing jury duty because there are people who do it for their job.
The weaknesses to this solution is that it will cost more money to pay the jurors and not many people will choose this as a career choice because it won’t be as exciting as other career opportunities Sam Kruger Legal 2014 In conclusion the jury system in Queensland is outdated and it should be updated to one of the suggestions above because they are more relevant for today’s society.
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Judge wants to cut juries from complex trials.
Retrieved May 26, 2014, from Abc News: http://www.abc. net. au/news/2011-12-14/senior-judge-wants-to-do-away-wi th-juries/3730800 Hurst, D. (2010, April 29). Jury duty? Sorry, we're busy that day. Retrieved May 30, 2014, from Brisbane Times: http://www. brisbanetimes. com. au/queensland/jury-duty-sorry-were-busy-th at-day-20100428-ts8u. html Knox, M. (2008, June 11). Game's up for jurors playing Sudoku. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from The Age National: http://www. theage. com. au/national/games-up-for-jurors-playing-sudoku-20 080610-2ohy. html Nedim, U. (2013, April 22). What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of a Jury Trial?
Retrieved June 9, 2014, from Sydney Criminal Lawyers: http://www. criminallaw. com. au/blog/criminal/general/what-are-the-advanta ges-and-disadvantages-of-a-jury-trial/10495 Queensland Consolidated Acts. (1899). Queensland Criminal Code. Retrieved May 27, 2014, from Queensland Consolidated Acts: http://www. austlii. edu. au/au/legis/qld/consol_act/cc189994/ Queensland Consolidated Acts. (1995). Jury Act 1995. Retrieved June 9, 2014, from Queensland Consolidated Acts: http://www. austlii. edu. au/au/legis/qld/consol_act/ja199591/ Sam Kruger Legal 2014 Sydney Gazette. (1824, October 21).
Trial by Jury in the Courts of Sessions. Retrieved May 26, 2014, from Trove: http://trove. nla. gov. au/ndp/del/article/2183299 Ward, B. (2006). Is modern crime too complicated for the modern jury? Retrieved May 27, 2014, from Forum on Public Policy: http://www. forumonpublicpolicy. com/archive06/ward. pdf Whealy. (2013). Instructing a jury in complex commercial trials – The position in England and its significance in an Australian context. Retrieved May 27, 2014, from Supreme Court: http://www. supremecourt. lawlink. nsw. gov. au/agdbasev7wr/supremecourt/d ocuments/pdf/whealy0606. pdf Sam Kruger Legal 2014.