The English Legal System

Reference is now required to the conclusions reached in The Auld Report as to the future of the jury system. Sir Robin Auld did not veer away from the recommendations laid before him by Penny Darbyshire. All her proposals were not taken up or suggested by Sir Robin Auld but those he did put forward were certainly in line with her views, with the exception of further 'intrusive' research. The key points as to the fundamental elements of jury systems are: 

Juries should be more representative of national and local communities 2. Special provision should be made for representation of 'ethnic minorities' in cases involving issues of race. 3. The Magistrate's Court should decide whether 'either way' cases go to crown court or not, as opposed to the defendant having the right to elect such. 4. Cases involving complex allegations of Fraud should be tried sans a jury. 5. Trial by Judge and Jury should remain the main form of trial for more serious offences triable on indictment.

6. The law should not permit more intrusive research into the workings of juries. It is arguable that his conclusions with regard to juries hold 'something for everyone', as it were. He categorically requires that jury trial continues for serious offences, pleasing the pro jury trial camp. He recommends a reduction in jury trials by removing the defendants elective right to such at the discretion of the magistrate's court, pleasing undoubtedly those that count the cost (if not those concerned with Human Rights).

It is unclear to whom the promise of greater ethnic minority representation at trials involving issues of race will please, and whether there is in fact any proof that they are not at present, this could lead to accusations of non random selection and playing to the defendants background. His general comment that juries need to be more representative of the national and local community is a debatable one - debatable as to it's failure not to be at present. Following the publication of Sir Robin Auld's Criminal Court Review Report many other commentators have had opportunity to respond.

Mr. Michael Zander QC, has placed within the domain of the public an extremely informed and detailed response. 1) He suggests that much of Penny Darbyshire's conclusions on jury thoughts and subsequently Lord Justice Auld's, are based on anecdote and not fact. He cites instead the Survey part of the Crown Court Study carried out for the Runciman Commission in 1992. Over eight thousand jurors were questioned immediately following the trial they were involved in. Seventy four percent found the experience very interesting and only four percent were negative about it.

With regard to the representative nature of the jury, it was found that the ethnic make up of the juries mirrored that of the general population. Similarly, the occupational make up of the juries largely mirrored that of the general population. These facts somewhat defeat the arguments that certain ethnic minorities exclude themselves from jury service and that certain professional classifications avoid service. Professor Zander goes on to suggest that evidently, the composition of juries makes no measurable difference to the outcome of trials.

A study in Birmingham concluded that "however one regarded the material (make up of juries), no consistent patterns were apparent. Within the Criminal Courts Review Report website are intriguing comments from further commentators such as Judges and Lawyers. 2) Such comments include, 'There are many different ethnic minorities. Indeed, we may not be very far away from a day when perhaps a majority of men and women will belong to one ethnic minority or another... it is hard to believe that there is any body of past experience that justifies so radical and problematical a shift of principle as this.

' This judges belief being that if we allow political correctness for it's own sake to penetrate the jury system we will be biting off more than we could possibly chew. Interesting comments stem from another judge with regard to the role of the jury in civil cases, he sees 'an outmoded notion in the arena of civil litigation' largely due to the increased time and cost and complexity of cases. In conclusion, there is and will continue to be much debate as to the status of jury trials in our common law system.

With a trend towards a belief in adopting certain aspects of Civil Law as practiced across much of Europe, and with a conflict between academic lawyers and practicing lawyers, academic lawyers and themselves and practitioners and themselves, it is unlikely that despite the current governments determination to remove trial by jury that this will come about in the short term. The UK Common Law system and the Constitution of the UK will not allow for sudden and dramatic change. 'Common Law rests upon a bargain between the law and the people...a jury is the place where that bargain is struck. '1)

Bibliography

The English Legal System, Slapper and Kelly, Cavendish, 5th Edition 2001, pp445- 482 English Legal System Q&A, McKenzie & Kunalen, Blackstones 1996, pp77 - 94 Criminal Courts Review Report, Sir Robin Auld, Chapter 2, paras 7 - 9 Penny Darbyshire Criminal Law Review [1991] Crim LR 740 Penny Darbyshire 'Recommendations for the Criminal Courts Review 2000', pp. 57-62, Lord Justice Auld's Review of the Criminal Courts - A Response