Evaluating whether juries should be abolished within the English legal system?
Juries have been used within the English legal system for many years.
Is it now time for us to use an alternative when we are determining a person innocents or guilt or perhaps we should sick to the original method which has been proved to be working for generations. For years now MP’s and legal departments have been debating on whether the current system used on trailing a defendant should be changes or not, and some changes have been made to the way in which we trail defendants but are these enough?
The argument for the use of juries within the English legal system is very strong but so is that off why we should no longer use juries.
Considering Juries have been around for several centuries and this is the method inwhich our country has decided upon using for centuries it is fair to say that the public have confidence in this system. And for good reasons the public have confidence in this system. But then should the public really have so much confidence in 12 strangers with no legal knowelege or training deciding something that will influlence anothers life for ever. Then becasue of the fact that they are 12 individuals with no legal training or knowlege so may agree that this means that they are able to decide case on fairness. For example in the case of R V Pointing in 1984. In this case a civil servent had let some information slip, but it was said that it was done for public intrest, the juries decided not to convict dispite there being no legal defence. In this case if it had not been heard by a jury I am sure that the outcome would have been different, this case has clearly not been decided on a legal issuse but rather that off a fairness issue. On the other hand allowing 12 strangers with no legal knowelege or training decideing cases could lead to perverse decisions which are not justified, In the case of RV Randle and Pottle in 1991 this was highlighted when jury decided not too convict after they wrote a book about their crimes 25 years later.
Another arguement put forward in the debate that using the current system of juries is best is that of it makes the public involved in the whole proceedings and so therefore makes the system open, This is off course by anyones argument benfical for society, not only should society by seeing what is happening with in the courts system to highten public confidence it also limits the about of curpsion with in the justice system. Others argue however that by having the jury system it is infact making the whole justice system more isolated from the public than more open, this is because of the secrecy of the jury room. Although by making the jury room secret it prevents the jury being influnced by the outside or intimadate into making a particular decision, it does also mean that the public have no idea what goes on in the jury room. How the jury have come to the decision they have and whether it is for the right reason that they have come to this decision. There is also the issuse that the jurys decision is not questionable and it is the only decision that is made within the whole judicial system that does not have to be explained. This means that the jury do not have to understand the case to make a verdict upon it. Some legal cases are very complex and there is also the clever advocates and all the legal jargon that goes on in a court room it is totally understandable that the jury may not understand the actual facts and legal responsibilities of a case.
There is always going to be outside influence. There is the media for example in the case or R V Taylor in 1993 the newspapers gave a false impression of some video fotage that was used as evidence. Ok though there are only a small percentages of cases that are so well publicised that it is going to have such an effect on the jury system but we are still dealing with the defendants lives in these cases.
So Baring the arguements for and against in mind should we stick with the current system of using juries or should we infact change the system? And if we are to change the system what are the alternatives?
There are four main alternatives to trial by Judge and Jury. The first is trial by judge alone. This is already used in civil cases and can be used in complex cases. This however comes with many problems as does trial by judge and jury. It does mean that all cases will be heard and decided by a trainned legal member, which does illimate the problems of the jury not understanding the cases and creating injustices, it also takes away the problem that the desision can be questioned and so the reason for these decisions can be challenged. Howvever this does make the whole judicial process closed from the public as the public will have no input in it and so this alternative may lose public confidence and could become currupted. The second alternative is that of trial by a pannel of judges. This method can be seen in many continatial countries and also in the court of appeal, divisonal courts and the house of lords. However this has the same problems as trial by judge alone. The Third alternative is that off trial by judge and lay assessors. This method is used in Scandinavian countries, And although the use of magerstartes is another issue although it does come with much critcism and problems of it’s own and this is also a very simialar method to trial by judge and jury. And the finial alternative is that of trial by judge and jury although the jury consists only of 8 as oppose to 12. This method is seen in Spanish systems, although this is very similar to the current method used in this country as so can almost certainly be dismissed straight way.
For a long time the instution of the jury has for long been a powerful symbol of our justice system. That is why to change the system of trial by judge and jury requires a compelling case. I should say to change further as the system of trial by judge and jury has changed much over recent years. However it has been called for these changes and for this reason there are doubts in my mind as to whether the current judicial system is working in our day and age, or should it change like the time. There are lots of factors to consider when making the decision about whether we should abolish juries and It is not my decision to make, although I would urge people who are making this decision that they change has to be to produce less injustices as oppose to making trial quicker and cheaper, these are peoples lives we are talking about and these are also very big decisions being made. However in my personal opionion these decisions should be made by people who have had training as oppose to people with no legal knowelege or training.