Describe the system of trial by jury within the English legal system

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Section A: Describe the system of trial by jury within the English legal system.

Over many years people have become familiarised by the term ‘jury’. It is an essential part of our legal system, and can be traced back to the middle ages. In the Magna Carta, 1215, Clause 39 of the charter basically says that no man shall be imprisoned unless decided by his peers. It seemed a fair way to sentence someone. Juries have, however, normally still been under the power of the judge. Judges were allowed to fine or punish juries that come up with a verdict different to what he thinks himself. The independence of the jury finally happened in Bushel’s Case, 1670. This happened following the trial of William Penn, who was being tried for unlawful speaking. Edward Bushel was a juror in the trial. All of the jury were treated unfairly, and eventually imprisoned, for the verdict that they came to. Whilst in prison, Bushel filed a writ of habeas corpus, which is a legal procedure that allows prisoners to argue the legality of their imprisonment. Chief Justice Vaughan agreed with Bushel and ordered the confined jurors to be released. Bushel's Case is very important in law because it basically invented jury nullification. The court made it clear that it is by the decision of the jury, not judge, that someone will be sentenced. Jurors can now not be punished for their decision. Courts also cannot try to force them to change their verdict. Even now the jury system is ever changing, but the basics will always still remain.

The jury is a group of 12 people. They are all different races, ages and genders. In criminal cases, the jury decide whether the defendant is guilty or not. In civil cases, the jury decide if the claimant has proved their case and also how many damages are being awarded. This only happens, however, in 4 types of civil cases: defamation (over 10,000), malicious prosecution, false imprisonment and fraud. Damages are discretionary in other cases. The jury do not have the right to decide the verdict in a criminal case. The judge, who will also hear the case, decides this. It is also essential that the judge does not help decide the verdict. He can not pressurise or threaten the jury, as it may not be fair. Each have their own roles and these must be stuck to.

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To qualify for jury service, a person must be aged between 18 and 70. They must also be on the electoral role, the list of people eligible to vote. A person must also have lived in the UK for 5 years since the age of 13. Anyone who does not qualify will not be allowed to be a juror. However, some people are ineligible, disqualified or excused from jury service. You are ineligible if you have either mental problem, are judiciary or concerned with the administration of justice, or are a clergy member. Disqualifications include people with certain criminal ...

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