Thursday, February 25, 2010

Study Finds UK Jurors Fair but Baffled by Judges' Instructions

One of the United Kingdom's leading jury experts, Prof. Cheryl Thomas of University College London (UCL), has just completed an extensive two-year long survey of more than 1,000 jurors at Crown Courts in that country and a separate study of over 68,000 jury verdicts.

Prof. Thomas says:

"This research shows that juries in England and Wales were found to be fair, effective and efficient – and should lay to rest any lingering concerns that racially-balanced juries are needed to ensure fairness in trials with BME [Black and minority ethnic] defendants or racial evidence."

"But it is also clear from the research that jurors want and need better information to perform this crucial role. The study recommends that all sworn jurors be issued with written guidelines explaining what improper conduct is, including use of the internet, and how and when to report it. The study also recommends that judges consider issuing jurors with written instructions on the law to be applied in each case. Both changes will help maintain the integrity of the jury system."
The study examined issues such as racial discrimination, jury conviction rates, juror comprehension and improper conduct, juror use of the Internet and media coverage of jury trials.

The UCL webpage also links to news coverage of the study (The Times - Ministry of Justice verdict on juries: confused, erratic - but not racist, Feb. 17; and The Guardian - Jurors 'struggle' to understand judges, study finds, Feb. 17) and to an interview with Prof. Thomas.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 12:33 pm

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