Older jurors are on their way…

Here’s hoping they behave

lead1

On 1 December, the upper age for those who can sit on a jury becomes 75, a rise of five years from the current ceiling of 70.

The change will increase the pool of people eligible for jury service by 3 million. It’s a good thing, according to justice minister Sir Oliver Heald QC. He says:

Trial by jury is a fundamental part of our world-leading justice system and it is important that our juries reflect today’s society. People are living longer, healthier lives, so it is right that our courts are able to benefit from the wisdom and experience that older people can offer.

What’s not to like? Nothing. The change is a good thing. Ageism is bad form.

But talking of bad form, it has an antonym. It’s called good form. And sometimes jurors, young and old, don’t exhibit the good form that the justice system would like. Here are a few examples that the new band of 70+ jurors will not want to emulate.

1. Drunk juror causes trial to be halted

Thanks to The Daily Mail for this one. In a drugs trial, Recorder Guthrie became aware that a female juror was doing what jurors since time immemorial have done — have a nap. However, if this might have been no more than standard, expenses-paid behaviour, said juror was under the influence. Said Guthrie:

During the course of the trial one of the jurors appeared to be asleep. The strong suspicion was she was under the influence of alcohol and I was forced to discharge the jury.

Oh dear.

2. P****d again

“Routinely, the decisions of juries have far reaching consequences in the lives of others, whether accused persons or the victims of crime.” So said Sheriff Alan Mackenzie in a drugs trial at Glasgow Sheriff Court in 2013, and he’s quite right. Sadly Sharon Wright didn’t seem to take this to heart, showing up drunk during the trial — and ending up with an electronic tag for her misconduct.

3. Getting edgy across the pond

In a New York trial in 2009, a juror sent a note to the judge saying:

I am being intimidated, threatened, screamed at, as well as verbally insulted that I am stupid because I do not agree. I have had 2 physical threats against me, a chair thrown and a verbal threat to beat me up. I need a police escort out of here. And I am afraid to come back …

Couldn’t happen here. Could it?

4. You’re fired!

No, of course not. In all the annals of domestic trials, there seems not to be a single recorded instance of a jury bullying other jury members (Legal Cheek readers: please send in examples). Perhaps this has something to do with the law: the Contempt of Court Act 1981 says it’s a contempt of court to disclose the secrets of the jury room, so here in Britain we have no idea what really goes on over such mundane things as deciding an accused’s guilt or innocence.

But we do know that some juries aren’t up to the job. Take the jury in the trial of Vicky Pryce for taking the speeding points of disgraced cabinet minister Chris Hume. Mr Justice Sweeney discharged the jury after more than 15 hours of deliberations, when they submitted ten questions “that indicated they had not grasped the basics of their task”. In other words, they had no idea what they were doing.

5. Enjoying jury service just a bit too much

Back to America (where else? they’ve just elected Trump, right?) for a cautionary tale. You may find yourself sitting on a jury but if, rather than falling asleep, you find the whole process very, very enjoyable, don’t get too carried away, as seems to have been the fate of a New York juror in 2006. Read this link to find out why a section of the courthouse was shut down for what are surely unique circumstances.

6. Pump it up

Or are they? By way of a reminder that judges can behave badly too, check out this story from Oklahoma City. And yes, the so-called ‘Penis Pump’ judge later received a four year sentence.

29 Comments

Anonymous

Juries are biased, work on emotive rather than logical reasoning, and can be, quite frankly, a bit stupid. I see no reason why a panel of random people taken of the street would be more likely to reach a correct verdict than a legally aware, trained judicial official. Just because it’s in the Magna Carta, doesn’t mean it’s in any way useful. Germany got rid of trial by jury, so I’m hardly the only person to be suggesting this.

(1)(15)
Anonymous

Juries need not know the legislation at hand. They are simply there to decide what is fact and what isn’t. That’s why we have barrister, solicitors and oh of course JUDGES.

(2)(0)
Anonymous

Eh up. Someone’s been rereading their first year ELS notes (in between the Daily Mail)

(3)(0)
Trumpenkrieg

Germany is no example to follow, being a cucked state where vibrant imported rapists run rampant while soy-fed, indigenous males stand by and do nothing, not wanting to be suspected of racism and/or toxic masculinity. I trust the common sense of 12 good men and true over the judgement of some insular clerk who is well versed in cultural marxist dogma but has never ventured outside his ivory tower.

(6)(4)
Trumpenschwarzwalderkirshtorte

Trumpenkrieg is no example to follow, being a cucked individual with vibrantly rightwing opinions about anything especially those not birthed from the precious soil he sprang which includes making rampant assumptions of people who don’t agree with him being stereotypical soy-fed, indigenous males standing by and do nothing, not wanting to be suspected of racism and/or toxic masculinity. He likes to watch rugby union, read Russell Kirk, play Call of Duty and work himself into a frenzy within his ivory tower.

(1)(2)
ALawyer

Germany also has an entirely different legal system so not the best example. In terms of the actual argument you raise there are a number of problems:
1. Jurors are not randomly selected, they are selected using set criteria and an algorithm so not completely random
2. They are not “taken off the street” except for extremely rare situations where judges still do have the power to literally empanel someone they found on the street
3. Jurors might not be “more likely” to reach a correct verdict than a legally aware trained judicial official they are also however not necessarily less likely.
4. If you have only professional judges making the decisions you would lose the tradition in this country of acquitting those who are legally guilty but who should be found not guilty because of some moral consideration for example R v Ponting.
5. Systems that do have judge only trials such as France, have proven to be no more reliable or better than our own and indeed have fundamental flaws, for example in France the Judge investigates and decides if the Defendant is guilty based on their own case, in addition, the Judge sits at the same level as the Prosecutor while the Defendant and their lawyers sits at a lower level.
6. “Just because it’s in the Magna Carta, doesn’t mean it’s in any way useful” – Indeed, but this is as opposed to the other clauses which all bar 4 including this one have been repealed and are no longer in force.

(0)(0)
Scouser of Counsel

If I may just weigh in here with my enormous girth, it’s not just common law systems that have trial by jury. The following European countries with civil law traditions also use juries in criminal cases to varying degrees:

France (jury of 9 in the Court of Assize)
Belgium (jury of 12)
Greece (jury of 4 sitting with 3 judges)
Norway (jury of 10)
Scotland (jury of 15)
Russia (jury of 12)
Austria (jury of 8)
Malta (jury of 9)

There are also Gibraltar (jury of 9) and Ireland (jury of 12) but they are common law jurisdictions.

I may have missed some, so feel free to chime in.

Here’s to the jury- long may it continue.

(5)(0)
Jay Cartwright

Pissed while on jury service? Phhh, that’s nothing!

When I was 10 I was on the jury for the OJ Simpson trial. One evening I ended up having a threesome with two of the other jurors (both birds). They bet me that if I could do it over 20 times in one night they’d convince the others to find him not guilty. I think you know how that one ended…

(6)(1)
Litevsky

“In all the annals of domestic trials, there seems not to be a single recorded instance of a jury bullying other jury members (Legal Cheek readers: please send in examples)”
“Perhaps this has something to do with the law: the Contempt of Court Act 1981 says it’s a contempt of court to disclose the secrets of the jury room”

Is LC really inviting it’s readers to commit crime on line in full view of plod?

(2)(0)
Mad Dog McGlinchey

In Nrn Irn , we had Diplock courts, without juries, coz we taul the juries to acquit our men our we’d blew their kneecaps off.

(2)(0)
Anonymous

Dublin has just established its second non-jury Special Criminal Court.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

“Spin spin spin the wheel of juuustice.
See how fast the bastard turns…”

(0)(0)
Anonymous

Chris Huhne. Also, it seems quite possible that the jury understood what they were doing, and that the notes were written because 1 of the 12 was an idiot.

(0)(0)
Anonymous

People who want to serve on juries are probably the ones who really shouldn’t.

(3)(0)
Litevsky

I thought the historical rationale of juries was that they knew the defendant Tom the village Baker and his wife who he was charged with murdering. Nowadays one is barred if one knows the defendant??

Juries can give peverse judgements deliberately for emotive reasons. Just watch the faces and the body language of jurors when the sick pedo charges are read out. The defendant is already a dead duck.

Then they can take issue with the state, like when a jury acquitted them Peace Activists of destroying Harrier jump jets destined for sale to Indonesia to bomb stone age tribes in Papua Guinea or Irian Jaya as it’s now called.

And what is the point of a jury on any complex case like the Guinness fraud trial or clinical negligence case? Why even LC struggles with medical and psychiatric terminology 🙂

(0)(1)
Anonymous

In the case of an either way offence where the Magistrates Court has retained jurisdiction , the defendant can choose to be tried by the magistrates or a jury.

(0)(0)
Scouser of Counsel

OK, for the geeks out there, here’s the definitive list of European civil law jurisdictions that have trial by jury:

France (jury of 9 in the Court of Assize)
Belgium (jury of 12)
Greece (jury of 4 sitting with 3 judges)
Norway (jury of 10- soon to be replaced by lay magistrates)
Scotland (jury of 15)
Russia (jury of 12)
Austria (jury of 8)
Malta (jury of 9)
Italy (jury of 6)
Sweden (jury of 9 in a very limited number of cases).
Spain (9 jurors and 2 substitutes).

(3)(0)
Anonimoose

I did jury service (in England) many moons ago when I was still a teen. Missed two weeks of a gorgeously blazing summer. In my first trial, we were a jury of 11 after one juror became very ill. The defendant gave their permission for the trial to continue with just 11 of us (this defendant had clearly never seen Twelve Angry Men: always make sure you’ve got your twelve, because that twelfth person might be the one that swings the deliberation room in your favour!!)).

Anyway, I found that every single juror took the process very seriously (I mean, the judge makes clear which offences you could be charged with if you don’t behave). Some comments above suggest that lay-juries don’t work because the Average Jane doesn’t know anything about the law. That completely misses the point of juries. As someone has mentioned above, juries are there for the finding of fact. And juries don’t decide whether the person *is* guilty, they decide whether the prosecution has provided enough evidence to persuade them beyond RD that the defendant is guilty.

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.