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Evaluation of the Jury System in Australia

2027 words (8 pages) Essay in Law

18/05/20 Law Reference this

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1.0              INTRODUCTION

This inquiry report aims to analyse the jury system in Queensland as well as the prevalence of misconduct to gain an in-depth understanding of the positives and negatives aspects on an obligatory system. Extensive research regarding the jury system is vital particularly in a society revolved around technology and social media platforms. Trial by jury exposes the criminal justice system to citizen’s scrutiny, leading to an informed society. However, regardless of the vast majority of modern legal proceedings, there is still a prevalence of flaws.

2.0            HISTORY OF THE JURY SYSTEM

The jury system has undergone significant changes throughout history to produce a fair and transparent system. The jury system was native to England however it potentially was appropriated by Norman invaders in 1066. The expansion of the jury system was brought about in the 15th century due to medieval society and their use of non- rational modes of trial such as trial by ordeal, which developed the established arrangement of trial for both civil and criminal cases at common law (Zeisel & Kalven, 2019).

According to the Criminal Justice Commission Queensland (1991), the Magna Carta of 1215 enshrined the jury system in common law through the statement:

No free man shall be seized, or dispossessed or outlawed, or in any way destroyed; nor will we condemn him, nor will we commit him to prison except by the legal judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land.

2.1 COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA CONSTITUION ACT

A trial by jury is a right due to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1901 as elucidated below:

The trial on indictment of any offence against any law of the Commonwealth shall be by jury, and every such trial shall be held in the State where the offence was committed, and if the offence was not committed within any State the trial shall be held at such place or places as the Parliament prescribes.

The Jury Act 1995 (Qld) outlines who in a community is and is not eligible for jury service to certify that jurors provide a wholesome cross-section of opinions and interpretations of the community (Horan, 2019). The Jury Act 1995 (Qld) s4 (1) states who is eligible for jury service, while s4 (3) of the Act outlines individuals exempt from jury service because of their profession, possession of a criminal record, or for other reasons. Cards with every potential juror’s personal details are placed in a box, this proceeds by the juror taking an affirmation or oath. At any time before the bailiff, the prosecutor may say ‘stand by’ or the defence counsel may call ‘challenge’. If this does not occur, they are directed to a seat in the jury box (Federal Court of Australia, n.d). According to s (32) of The Jury Act, 1995 (Qld) 4 people are in a civil trial and s (33) of the Act states a criminal trial requires 12 people.

An opinion or decision on an issue of fact in a civil or criminal case is referred to as a verdict. A unanimous verdict is when the jury panel agrees upon the verdict. The perseverance of majority verdict had the purpose to prevent lone rogue jurors to force a hung jury. Majority verdicts is only accessible if it is not a common offence but a state offence (LY Lawyers, 2017).

2.2 ADVERSARIAL AND INQUISTORIAL SYSTEM

The adversarial system of justice is the utilization of interested conflicting parties debating in order to ensure the pursuit of justice. Nonetheless, the inquisitorial system of justice is where the judge obliges as the active fact-finder. This system is seen to be a better alternative to the adversarial system of justice, as it accentuates truth-seeking and impartiality over the value of simply winning in a court setting (Perkins, 2015). 

3.0             MISCONDUCT OF JURORS

Jury misconduct is the action where an individual or an external factor impacts the jury’s deliberations or if prohibited conduct transpires (Hardwick, n.d). Juror misconduct includes runaway jurors, allegations of embracery, consuming food and bribery. This presents risks to the defendants’ rights to a fair trial and the administration of justice generally in that jurisdiction (Spears, 2007).  Recently social media has been a reoccurring problem in the legal system concerning the legal process as jurors’ abilities to keep discussions clandestine is sacrosanct. This ensures undisclosed information is not presented via social media platforms as “legal experts are warning” that social media is no place for judges, defendants or juries due to the ramifications that has befallen in several cases (Carrick, 2016). Nelson Claudino, Faroq Ahmed and Hardeep Singh case occurred in 2008 and the misconduct of jurors was prevalent. All three men were accused of child abduction and sex assault.  According to the Urmee Khan from telegraphthe woman posted details of the case and then proceeded to hold a poll to decide whether the defendants were guilty or innocent. The juror was dismissed from Burnley Crown Court and the trial continued with 11 jurors to reach a verdict. The consequences for the juror was not presented in the case however in precent cases the jurors have been given two years imprisonment or been excused from the case. This misconduct did not affect the rest of the jury and as a result a mistrial did not occur (Bellard, 2008). 

The misconduct of the juror caught the attention of hundreds of journalists and disrupted the case. Articles typically skew the viewers to one side and often assume that the defendant is already guilty. Misconduct of jurors is a selling point for journalists, they often include prejudicial information that is rarely allowed during a criminal trial. Moreover, the community were outraged as the Facebook profile was not private and several individuals reported to the source that they came back with guilty verdicts. This verdict made on Facebook by the community is solely based on no evidence. This delinquency enforces that the legal systems require impartiality for a fair trial (Cutlack, 2008).

4.0 RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE JURY SYSTEM

The misconduct of jurors arises several ramifications that deteriorate the impartiality of a trial. Two alternatives regarding the misconduct of jurors is the utilisation of judge only trials or trained jurors. The implementation of judge only trials ensures the justice system is dynamic and receptive to community expectancies. This solution ensures the trial is done in a timely manner and is suitable between the rights of the accused and the right of victims of crime (Fricke, n.d). However, when implementing this solution, the judge’s objectivity while deciding a case needs to be taken into account as by removing the jurors the impartiality and cross section of the community may be jeopardised. During a criminal trial the defendant’s viewpoint of judge only trials are prejudicial. To be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the jury in a criminal case a unanimous vote is indispensable.

The second alternative is through the enactment of trained jurors. A legal trial is solely based on discovering the truth, consequently, the search for the truth comprises of confines of a strict set of procedures and rules, and the verdicts that juries render should be a representation of an equilibrium of accuracy and policy concerns (O’Leary, 2011). Training jurors would eradicate jurors misunderstanding the rules of law, legal presumptions and pertinent standards of proof. In a trial the information they are advised not to utilise is what they entrust on and the jurors ignore crucial evidentiary points. This results in inappropriate inferences that potentially leads to an inconsistent legal system (Criminal Justice Commission Queensland, 1991).

A recommendation to improve the jury system in Queensland is judge only trials.

The administration of criminal justice has identified juror’s capability to place inadmissible and prejudicial aside whilst deciding cases, however with the epidemic of social media platforms this is becoming an overpowering setback. Through judges training and experiences, analysing admissible evidence and disregarding prejudicial material there is no effect on the determination of guilt and a equitable outcome is presented. However, judge only trials have been around for centuries and potentially removing jurors is not fair to the community, defendant and judge as the jury system has to be objective for everybody (Criminal Justice Commission Queensland, 1991).

5.0  REFERENCE LIST

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