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Role of Juries. One could argue that the use of juries in trials is a cornerstone of the democratic system and that having a trial by ones peers is a right which dates back to the Magna Carta

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Introduction

One could argue that the use of juries in trials is a cornerstone of the democratic system and that having a trial by one's peers is a right which dates back to the Magna Carta 1215.1 However, Zander believes this fact to be incorrect. One could argue that it is fairer than trial by judge alone, since it is predicted that the twelve people of the jury will cancel out each other's prejudices. Juries must decide whether the defendant in a criminal court is found guilty based on the evidence given in the courtroom, and therefore it can be argued the juries have one of the most important roles in the judicial system. Indeed, Lord Denning commented on the power of juries: - "It (trial by jury) has been the bulwark of our liberties too long for any of us to seek to alter it. Whenever a man is on trial for serious crime or when in a civil case a man's honour or integrity is at stake... then trial by jury has no equal." The jury is comprised of twelve members randomly selected from the electoral register who must look at the evidence presented from both sides, listen ...read more.

Middle

This shows how the importance of juries is overrated as, when given the choice, most defendants choose to appear before magistrates.5 From the 19th Century onwards, jury service was restricted for owners of property exceeding a certain value but currently, under the Juries Act 1974, based on the recommendations of the Morris Committee 1965, any UK resident between the ages of 18 and 70 on the electoral register are eligible for jury service. Before the Criminal Justice Act 2003 was introduced, ineligible persons included those whom one would consider to exercise undue influence upon the jury's decision by virtue of their professional knowledge of the justice system, i.e. judges, lawyers, police officers etc.6 However, after act was introduced, the only people that could be excused from jury service were those whom were 'mentally disordered.' This contradicts what was witnessed in the Combined Courts of Newcastle recently, where in R v Bell7, Judge Evans deemed it inappropriate for a Newcastle police-man and a Crime Scene Investigator working in Durham to sit on the jury panel, hence showing that the 'law in the books' is not always the same as 'law in action.' ...read more.

Conclusion

Auld L.J's recommendation of empowering trial judges in more complex fraud cases12 was accepted and included in the Criminal Justice Act 200313, meaning cases that would be unduly burdensome on jurors in terms of complexity and length would be put on trial by judge alone. This replacement followed the costly Maxwell brothers' trial 1995-96. Sir Frederick Lawton once argued that jurors 'level of understanding of cases, and perhaps their level of intelligence, are not always up to the task they have to perform'. The importance of the jury recently has declined due to the introduction of such acts as The Senior Courts Act 1981, which stipulates the right to a jury trial is limited to four specific areas; fraud, defamation, malicious prosecution and false imprisonment. The first criminal trial held without a jury occurred in 201014. The introduction of The Criminal Law Act 1977 and the Justice Act 1988 also limited the power of the jury. However, one cannot say the Jury does not play an important role as Lord Birkett once said:- "...the jury introduces into the law an element of community sentiment and fairness: a jury can do justice where a judge ... has to follow the law... ...read more.

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