Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Jury

At Southwark Crown Court, the jury in the Vicky Pryce case was discharged since it was unable to reach a verdict despite the trial judge (Mr Justice Sweeney) being prepared to accept a majority verdict-  (The Guardian 20th February).  A retrial was ordered.  Ten questions sent by the jury to the judge have received huge publicity and some commentators have used these to attack the whole idea of trial by jury - e.g. Simon Jenkins The Guardian - Juries? It's time they went the way of the ducking stool.  Unfortunately, certain of the questions posed by this particular jury appear to show a distinct lack of understanding and, as Joshua Rozenberg points out (The Guardian 21st February), might have damaged confidence in the jury system.  A good antidote to such thoughts is to listen to John Cooper QC and Kirsty Brimelow QC discussing the jury - BBC 21st February 2013 - Lawyers debate whether trial by jury is the best option.

In serious cases, I have no doubt that the jury remains, in Lord Devlin's memorable phrase, the Lamp that shows that freedom lives.

Read Trial by Jury - Marcel Berlins The Guardian 24th May 2005; Explaining our Law and Legal System ... No. 4 ... Juries  ; 'The Little Parliament' (Sally Lloyd-Bostock and Cheryl Thomas) and How the Law Works - Chapter 8 - The Jury - Dr. Gary Slapper.

Further excellent articles are:  Felicity Gerrity - The Barrister - Jury Trial - Don't fix what isn't broken.; David Allen Green - New Statesman 21st February - What Pryce justice?  ; Pete Weatherby QC of Garden Court North Chambers - On Jury Trials. and John Cooper QC - Shadowofthenoose blog.

1 comment:

  1. Obiter,

    As a supporter of jury trials, do you think that the general guilty/not guilty verdict is justifiable? It could well cover up some pretty serious mistakes by jurors. I'm not even sure that it meets the demands of the right to a fair trial.