More than 50 years later, is this statement still applicable? Should the jury system be abolished? A jury is a sworn body of people convened to deliver an impartial verdict. Juries are composed of jurors, who are by definition layman finders of fact, not professionals. The jury trials are now governs by the Juries Act 1974. As Lord Devlin once stated, trial by jury is more than an instrument of justice and more than once wheel of the constitution. It is now been regarded as the lamp that shows that freedom lives.
This was written by Lord Devlin in 1956, and the question now is whether this statement can still be applied in the legal system nowadays? To start with, the academic Penny Derbyshire penned an article entitled "The Lamp that Shows that Freedom Lives – Is it worth the Candle? In this article, she argued that jury is no longer seen as representative to the society, they are more likely to be seen as anti-democratic, irrational and haphazard legislator, whose erratic and secret decisions that against the rule of law.
Since then, the critics have raised up few arguments so to support her statement. One of the arguments is the perverse decision made by the jury. It was claimed by the critics that in some clear cut cases, the juries choose to acquit the defendant though the evidence prove otherwise. More to say it was because they make the decision based on their own conscience rather than examine the evidence. This was seen in the case of R v Randle and Pottle, where defendants were charged with helping the spy George Blake to escape from the prison.
The arrest did not occur until 25 years later and based on the lapse of time, the jury acquitted them. Another argument raised up by the critics is the secrecy of decision. This was supported by s. 8 of Contempt Court Act 1981, where it will be contempt to court if one disclose or obtain information about that occurred in the jury. This Act was claimed to protect the jury from outside influence and allows them to bring in unpopular verdict. However, there is no way of knowing whether the jury truly understand the nature of the case and reach the decision for the right reasons.
One such case is R v Mirza, where the defendant was a Pakistani who lived in UK in 1998. In this case, the conviction was quashed because the jury has developed a theory claiming that the use of an interpretation was a 'ploy'. Besides that, in some cases like R v Young and R v Karakaya, where both of this cases concern with the jury using unreliable means of coming to a decision. Therefore, the authorities above show that the jury is not competence enough to decide the conviction of defendant.
Besides that, it was also argued that the racial bias in the jury brought up a lot of issues. Some claimed that due to the reason that the names of jury are randomly selected, it may not produce a cross selection society. When this happen, one would most likely to face a group of white people though he might have the option to challenge to the array. Even if he can challenge to the array, the court might choose not to accept on the ground that jury was chosen in a random manner as in the case of R v Ford.
Therefore, based on the case of Sander v UK, the European Court of Human Rights held that the judge should have discharged the jury on the basis that they have made racist remarks and jokes. Some would also argue that with the technology developing nowadays, the people are provided with many forms of media. This media will indirectly influence the people's life and this does not exclude the jury. This could happen especially for a high profile case, where the media will publish all sort of news, which possible to mislead the jurors.
One such case will be R v Taylor and Taylor, where 2 sisters were charged with murder and the newspaper published a still form of video consequence which gave the people a false impression. Based on that, the Court of Appeal decided to quash the conviction on possible influence. However, apart from the arguments above, many see that today the jury plays a fundamental part of the English Legal System. They not only ensure the criminal justice system works for the benefit of the public but also ensure that it won't be abused by political leaders.
Thus, the verdict given by they are seen to be those of society rather than judicial system. With the appointment of laymen as jury, this will increase the public confidence. Moreover, the supporters of jury give the reason of jury equity. They claimed that juries are not legal experts and they are not bound to follow the precedent. In addition, they do not have to give reasons for their verdict. Thus, it is more likely that they decide cases based on fairness. Cases like Ponting show that how important jury equity is. In this case, a civil servant was charged with s.
3 of the Official Secret Act 1911 for leaking information on the sinking ship. He claimed that his actions had been in the public interest and due to that the jury refused to convict him. Lastly, it was claimed that as compare to judge, the jurors have less prosecution minded. They have the ability to judge according to conscience. They are seen as a vital protection against oppressive and politically motivated prosecutions. This was shown is R v Owen, where the jury acquitted the lorry driver, who injured the defendant, despite a great deal of evidence against him.
Thus, this shows that jury has more compassion than the judge. They are able to give verdict in favour of the public. Based on the disadvantages listed above, it is obvious that the role of the jury may not see as important as last time. Because of that, Sir Robin Auld Lj made a few recommendations in his Review of the Criminal Courts. In relation to racial bias, he recommend that jurors should be more widely representation than they are of the national and local communities and the qualification for jury service should be remained the same.
Besides that, no one in future should be ineligible for, or excusable as of right from jury service. Any claimed inability to serve should be subject to discretionary deferral or excusal. In term of perverse decision, he recommends that the law should be declared by statute that juries have no right to acquit defendant if the evidence said otherwise. In conclusion, even though there are disadvantages of the sitting of juries in English Legal System, but since the recommendation of Auld report, the government has tried to work on it by enacting.. . It proves to be success as