a)Explain the selection procedure for juries. So as to provide a proper cross-section of society, possible jury members are selected at random from the electoral register. Further selection is carried out at the court using cards, so this is also random. Certain people are excluded from jury service, including those under 18, over 70, not registered to vote, and those who have not lived in the UK for at least 5 years since the age of 13.
In addition to this, some other people are disqualified from serving, including police officers, traffic wardens, members of the legal profession, people with certain mental illnesses, and anyone who has been in prison or received a suspended sentence within the last 10 years. People who have been in detention for public protection and people currently on bail are now disqualified under ? schedule 33′, an amendment to several procedures relating to jurors brought into effect by section 9(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
Certain other people are eligible for excusal, meaning they do not have to serve, but can if they wish. This includes Members of Parliament, doctors, and anyone who has served as a juror within the last 2 years, as they have done their duty. Members of the armed forces are also excused for practical reasons. In some cases, jurors may also be excused at the discretion of the judge, including people with a holiday booked before they were aware they may have to serve, and parents with young children.
Students with exams may be excused to serve at a later date. b)Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a jury hearing a criminal trial. There are many arguments for and against the use of juries. One key advantage is it provides public participation, creating an open criminal justice system. This is important because the system is there for the good of society, and society can play an active part in it’s operation. This also serves to create public faith in the system.
Another argument for juries is that citizens are protected from oppressive prosecution from the state, i. e. a system where high-level politicians could ? inform’ the judge of what the verdict will be is prevented. Some might also argue that 12 people have a better chance of coming to a correct decision than one, and there is dispute over whether a right for trial by jury can be traced as far back as Magna Carta in 1216, although some think that the reference to ? trial by peers’ means a judge as opposed to trial by ordeal.
Conversely, there is the very definite notion that juries may be corrupted by bribery or intimidation far more easily than a judge could be. They can therefore find the wrong verdict. This could also happen if particularly dominant jurors imposed their views of weaker ones, or if juries, as sometimes happens, use unreliable methods to arrive at their decision. There is also an issue as to whether it would be better for the verdict to be arrived at by someone with legal training, as points of law and legal issues would then be taken into account.
Furthermore, it could be argued that it would be more sensible for whoever gives a verdict to pass sentence, as whatever resulted in a guilty verdict could be applied to the sentencing aspect of the case. There is also a risk that some jurors may not take their position seriously, or may not really listen to the evidence. Juries are also not accountable for their decisions, whereas, since the Human Rights Act 1998, judges and magistrates are.
Juries also cost more and are more time-consuming than trial by judge alone, and a judge would more easily grasp some of the issues of more complex cases. In addition, when there are many counts, only ? specimen counts’ can be brought before a jury, meaning someone is being tried on only a fraction of what they have actually done. To conclude, I would say that the disadvantages of trial by jury outweigh the advantages significantly, however perhaps a new method of determining guilt or innocence should be developed as opposed to trial by judge alone.