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Legal System | Criminal Courts

Jury: Role

Model Answer | A Level

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Describe the role of a jury in a Crown Court trial

Jurors are arbiters of fact, which means they decide on matters of fact and leave relevant legal matters for judge to determine. In practice, jurors determine guilt or innocence of defendant on the basis of their understanding of law, as explained to them by a judge. The jurors' oath is to .. faithfully try the defendant and give a true verdict according to the evidence.... It is contempt to of court for a juror to not come to a decision, 1997, two jurors were sentenced to thirty days in prison for refusing to come to a verdict but after media pressure the sentence was overturned.

Jurors should listen to the evidence and submissions, followed by the judge's summing up of evidence and legal directions, they can take notes and use when deliberating but they are destroyed after the trial.

Jurors must decide on a verdict on basis of the evidence heard and argued in the court so both parties have the opportunity to test the evidence. In Fricker, the jury sent a note to the judge to ask can they use knowledge of the tyre specialist on the jury but before he responded jury found the defendant guilty so the conviction was overturned on appeal.

Discussion in the jury room must be kept secret and the Contempt of Court Act 1981 makes disclosure of anything that happens in a jury room a criminal offence. The verdict should be a unanimous decision. If after at least two hours a verdict has not been reached the judge may instruct them a majority verdict would be accepted. About twenty percent of jury verdicts are now reached by majority decision as set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1967. The jury split must be declared (Barry).

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