The jury system has deep historical roots and has been described by Lord Devlin in title ‘Trial by Jury’ as ‘the lamp that shows the freedom lives’. Juries allow the citizens to take part in the administration of justice so that verdicts are seen to be those of society rather the judicial system. Furthermore, in Justice, Democracy and the Jury, named Gobart James stated that freeing the jury from the law and precedent allows them to follow their conscience and good sense, and juries instinctively know right from wrong.
In “Jury out on the Rule of Law” name David Corker stressed that juries were able on occasion to inhibit power and offer protection to the powerless, this is well established in R v Ponting and R v Kronlid. Despite the facts of the advantages of the jury system, there are debatable issues such as: the jury selection, incompetency in deciding complex cases and immunity granted by the common law. Under s. 5(1) of the Jury Act 1974 , states that a jury must be selected at random and only can be excused for a good cause or disqualified for various reason such as illiteracies.
In Ethnic Minorities in The Criminal Courts: Perception of Fairness and Equality of Treatment: Research by Hood, Shute and Seemungal stated that ‘jury member’s sometimes just want to see ethnic minorities defendants go down’, and this is subsequently contrary to Article 6 of European Convention of Human Rights guaranteeing right to fair trial. It is because ethnic minorities are not well represented. This criticism is explained the case of R v Ford, Lord Lane rejected the defendant’s argument’s that he ought to be allowed a jury with representatives of his ethnic group and held that ‘fairness is achieved by the principle of random selection. ’ Under s.
8 of the Content of Court Act 1981, expressly provided an immunity of jury by prohibiting investigation of deliberation and any evidence of jury misconduct would be inadmissible. The Department of Constitutional Affairs in its consultation paper ‘Jury Research and Impropriety’ justified this rule and emphasized that if otherwise would prejudice the privacy or the safety of the jury or expose them to intimidation: R v Mirza. Contradictory, in R v Williams, MC Lachlan J admitted that ‘it cannot be assumed that judicial directions to act impartially will always effectively counter racial prejudice.
As such J. R Spencer in “Freedom to act irresponsibly” argued that allegation of juries misbehaviour would have to be investigated. In addition, in defending the Secrecy law, Lord Scott Baker in Attorney Generals v Scotcher stated that the likelihood of an injustice being caused by misconduct in jury deliberation is small, because it would lead to injustice conviction and would require the participation of the majority of its members. Admittedly the chances are small, but it happens, as such jury acting in an improper manner in arriving their decision such as toss of a coin in Vaise v.
Delaval and use of the Ouija board in R v Young. Despite the facts that misbehaviour of jury may happen, there is alternative way to avoid perverse decision by appealing to a higher court. It is established in Grobbelaar v News Group Newspaper Ltd, the Court of Appeal overturned a jury decision in civil proceedings on the basis the decision had been perverse. Furthermore, s. 43 Criminal Justice Act 2003 provides for trial by judge alone where the case involves complex or lengthy financial and commercial agreement such as fraud.
This is because fraud trials in which complex accounts are used in evidence can create problems for jurors as observed by Adrian Turner in Juries: Fair But Competent and Efficient? stated that ‘much of our law on crime and evidence is above the heads of many members of ordinary public, meaning the juries. In Investigating Impropriety in Jury Deliberations: A Recipe for Disaster, Nicola Haralambous argued that ‘it is common sense to say that people should not be asked to carry out tasks such as assessing the evidence and delivering verdicts in serious and often complex cases unless they possess the necessary competence. In answering the question of necessary competence, in ‘Juries in Fraud Trials’, Robert Rhodes asserted that ‘juries are excellent at judging these issues’.
A second report for the Ministry of Justice by Professor Cheryl Thomas entitled “Are Juries Fair? ’ concluded that juries overall appear efficient and effective. Last but not least, Juries have been constantly criticized for their limited competence and their lack of objectivity. Hence, in “Racism, Impartiality and Juries”, Peter Hobert argues that reforms of jury process are urgently required.
In ‘Review of the Criminal Courts of England and Wales , Sir Robin Auld recommended that jurors should provide a reason for their verdicts so as to reduce the risk of perverse verdicts. In conclusion, despite the many drawbacks from the jury system, it will continue to remain vital and unwavering part of English Legal System. This is because at its heart, the jury represents society and the prevailing views in society about what sort of conduct should be penalised, and what ought not. As noted by Anand Doobay in Jury Still Out On Reform, ‘the jury system is an established institution for the trail of cases which affect liberty.