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Legal System | Criminal Courts

Jury: Disadvantages

Model Answer | A Level

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Discuss the disadvantages of using jurors in the criminal justice process

Juries can be criticised for bias and prejudices go unchallenged and even unnoticed as no reason for decision is required. Secrecy is a disadvantage as it means no accountability or justification is given. Perverse decisions can undermine the rule of law and Parliamentary Sovereignty. In Randle & Pottle, the defendants assisted a famous spy to escape from prison and wrote a book about the escape, they argued their actions were justified because of the severity of sentence and were acquitted by a jury.

Juries have a low conviction rate, in rape cases it is claimed that jurors' prejudicial attitudes to female complainants account for low conviction rates (Temkin 2008). A postcode lottery can apply to juries, for example Snaresbrook Crown Court has a reputation for juries that do not convict (Hansard 1982).

A few members of a jury can be influential even intimidating which would be less likely to happen in a professional setting Juries can be more susceptible to intimidation or bribery so the Criminal Justice Act 2003 allows for trials to be conducted without a jury where there is a danger of jury tampering.

Media pressure can affect juries despite the fact verdicts should only be based on evidence presented in court. In Taylor and Taylor, two sisters were accused of murder, newspapers published a still from a video which could have been misleading and the jury found the defendants guilty so the conviction was quashed on appeal. The Ministry of Justice, Are Juries Fair Report (2010) found that one third of jurors on high profile cases recalled some pre-trial coverage. In 2008 a number of juries dismissed due to internet misuse during the trial and this is a growing area of concern. The increased use of the internet and social media makes this a very topical issue.

Juries create uncertainty as no precedent is followed or created which makes it difficult to anticipate verdicts. Lack of expertise can be an issue and in Aitken v Preston, a high profile libel case a non-jury trial was ordered on the basis that the trial would involve the extensive examination of documents and also because a judge can give a reasoned decision on issues of dispute.

There are also selection issues, as it is based on voter registration which is imperfect and means often poorer and ethnic minorities are not in the potential juror pool.

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