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Lay Participation,undesirable?

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Introduction

Lay Participation in the English Legal System is no longer either necessary or desirable. Discuss. Laypersons are members of the public. They are legally unqualified personnel, making decisions on individuals' guilt or innocence. Their participation in the criminal system is based on the principle that an accused should be judge by his peers (his equals). Such laypersons are either members of the jury or magistrates. They are not paid for their involvement but do receive expenses and a contribution to possible loss of earnings if appropriate. Some may say, therefore, it is cheap justice and perhaps potentially dangerous to leave such important decisions that may affect people lives to members of the public, some of whom may not fully understand the law and what is being argued. However, others say that it is the crux of British justice, 'Hallowed by time' and essential to the system of criminal trials. Members of the jury serve both advantages and disadvantages. Arguments that favour the jury system are Public participation, Certainty, Secrecy and Ability to judge according to conscience. In Public Participation juries allow the ordinary citizen to take part in the administration of justice, so that verdicts are seen to be those of society rather than of the judicial system, and satisfy the constitutional tradition of the judgment by one's peers. ...read more.

Middle

This throws up several obvious problems: a more complicated selection process would be more time-consuming and costly; finding sufficient people willing to take part might prove difficult; and a jury that is intelligent and educated can still be biased, and may be more likely to be so if drawn from a narrow social group. It is also known the jurors may be biased for or against certain groups. For example, they may favour attractive members of the opposite sex, or be prejudiced against the police. Bias appears to be particular problem in libel cases, where juries prejudiced against newspapers award huge damages, apparently using them punitively rather than as compensation for the victim. Examples, include the �500,000 awarded to Jeffrey Archer in 1987, and the �300,000 to Koo Stark a year later, as well as Sutcliffe v Pressdram Ltd (1990, in which Private eye was ordered to pay �600,000 to the wife of the Yorkshire Ripper. Manipulations by defendants choose jury trial in a bid to make use of the delays. This may pressurise the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to settle with a less serious charge. ...read more.

Conclusion

My principle in such cases has always been to believe the evidence of the police officer, and therefore we find the case proved'. The conviction was quashed on appeal because of this remark. Background served as a disadvantage because the magistrates should come from varied social backgrounds, and are to be predominantly white, middle class and middle-aged, with a strong Conservative Bias. The selection process has been blamed for the general narrowness of magistrates' backgrounds: Elizabeth Burney's 1979 study into selection methods concluded that the process was almost entirely dominated by existing magistrates who over and over again simple appointed people with similar backgrounds to their own. However, a narrow social and ethnic background does make the Bench unrepresentative of the general public and may weaken confidence in its decisions, on the part of society in general as well as the defendants before them. Jackson's argument that those 'set in authority over us' always tend to be middle to upper class in not a good reason for not trying to change things. All in all, it would appear on the evaluation that the disadvantages of jury service and magistrates far outweigh the advantages but the main problem must be the danger of their lack of understanding of certain cases. ...read more.

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