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Assess the value of lay decision-making in the criminal justice system by reference to the role of the jury and Justices of the Peace.

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Introduction

Assess the value of lay decision-making in the criminal justice system by reference to the role of the jury and Justices of the Peace. What is Jury? The jury has been an integral part of our legal system since at least the 13th century if not, as some commentators suggest, for nearly a thousand years. Many regard it as the institution which best expresses the philosophy of the English legal system. The concept of the jury excites great passions, both among its supporters and its critics. The jury is concerned only with questions of fact. It is never concerned with questions of law. Currently in most criminal cases the charge is first considered by a grand jury with between 12 and 23 members. Fine-tuning Jury's qualification The Criminal Justice Act 2003 also amended the Juries Act 1974 by abolishing certain categories of ineligibility (excluding mental disorder), and excusal as of right. The bar on judges, clergy, etc is lifted. MPs, etc are no longer entitled to refuse to serve. These groups now must do jury service unless they can show good reason not to do. They only limitation now is disqualified and mentally disordered individuals: no-one is excused as of right. Pros and Cons of Jury Jury has been variously described as the safeguard of liberty; an essential check upon unpopular laws; the best means for establishing truth. ...read more.

Middle

His application was based upon breach of Article 6 European Court of Human Rights, the right to a fair trial. During the course of the trial a sealed letter was sent to the judge by a juror expressing concern that 2 fellow jurors had been overheard telling racist jokes. The applicant and his co-accused were both Asian. The trial judge invited the jurors to examine their consciences overnight. The following morning he received 2 letters, one of which was signed by all members of the jury strenuously refuting any suggestion of racial bias, and the second from one member of the jury apologizing for earlier comments which might well have been overheard, and declaring that he was not racially biased. The judge decided not to discharge the jury, which eventually convicted the applicant and acquitted his co-accused. It was held by the European Court of Human Rights that the trial judge had not taken sufficient steps to remove doubts as to the jury's impartiality. An appeal against conviction based on Article 6 European Court of Human Rights was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in Smith (Lance Percival) 2003. The grounds of appeal were that the evidence of the black defendant conflicted with that of the white witness, and that all the jurors were white. It was held that since the offence arose from the common event of violence outside a nightclub, the jury was capable of trying the issues fairly and impartially. ...read more.

Conclusion

Overall the research concludes that both lay magistrates and District Judges fulfil a useful role within the criminal justice system and should be retained. At the same time, there is no reason why the balance of contributions of each type of magistrate could not be altered without prejudicing the integrity of a system which is based upon strong tradition. The Auld Review of Criminal Courts 2001 proposed that magistrates should decide where the defendant is to be tried. As a compromise the Criminal Justice Bill 2002 increased magistrates' sentencing power so that fewer cases need go to the Crown Court. Magistrates' Proposed Future In January 2001, a report entitled Community Justice by Professor Andrew Sanders for the Institute for Public Policy Research called for the replacement of panels of lay justices by panels composed of District Judges, the former stipendiary magistrates, assisted by 2 lay magistrates. According to Professor Sanders: "These proposals would increase public confidence, and they would enhance the contribution ordinary members of the public make to our justice system." The value of Justice of Peace's Lay Decision The Magistrates' Association took a rather different view and saw the proposals as an attack on what was already an extremely representative system of justice. According to the chairman, Harry Mawdsley, the proposed scheme would cost around �30 million annually in salaries alone, but apart from costs: Lay magistrates provide community justice: they are ordinary people who live and work in the local community and who have an intimate knowledge of that community. ...read more.

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