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Thread: Juries

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    Politics.ie Member evercloserunion's Avatar
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    Default Juries

    Juries are considered one of the vital protections for the accused. They stem from the Magna Carta and thus pre-date the Constitution but now are protected in Article 38.5 of Bunreacht.

    Save in the case of the trial of offences under section 2, section 3 or section 4 of this Article no person shall be tried on any criminal charge without a jury.
    The right to a jury does not, obviously, extend to cases in the Special Criminal Court, summary offences or military courts.

    The jury is generally seen as one of the foremost protections for the accused. A trial of a regular criminal offence (ie one falliing outside sections 2,3 and 4 of Article 38) without a jury would be struck down immediately by the SC. But is it really all that important or useful? What actual purpose does this lay-element in the criminal justice system serve?

    It would seem that many attach importance to the jury because it is seen as "democratic". Devlin, and English judge, called each jury a "little parliament". But I contend that this is utterly incorrect and that a jury falls far far short of any possible criteria for being called democratic. First of all, the sample size is simply too small for a jury to represent society to any meaningful extent. Juries generally have 12 people and in Ireland are supposed to represent a society of four million. Taking a sample of 12 as representative of 4,000,000 yields a margin of error of about 30%. That margin will obviously be significantly larger again in the UK. Now think about that; you know when mrbi or RedC polls come out, they usually have a sample size about about 1,000 and a margin of error of about 2%. The Sindo poll, using a sample size of 500 with a margin of error of about 5% I think, is widely seen as barely credible or not at all. Imagine a poll came out with a sample of 12 people and a margin of error of about 30%! Would you pay it much heed? Now obviously a jury is not the same as a polling sample and they fulfill different roles but the point is the same; 12 people cannot possibly be representative of society, even if completely randomly chosen.

    And they are not randomly chosen; not from our society of 4 million anyway. The Juries Act 1976 places significant restrictions on who can be called to do jury duty (full list here). this obviously completely precludes the possibility of a fully representative cross-section of society.

    I have dealt with only one aspect of the jury question; the myth of representativeness. There are other issues too which hopefully we can discuss in due course. Incidentally, jury trials have been on the decrease in the UK over the past few years, as more offences are transferred to the courts of summary jurisdiction to save money and clear up the backlog in the Crown Court. Clearly the right to a jury is not so infallible over there. Should this come as any surprise? The juries are supposed to be a protection for the accused, yet in the really high profile cases like the Winchester Three and the Birmingham Six the jury did little to counter the abuse of process that took place at the pre-trial stage. And in general, it must be asked, if juries are such a vital and beneficial protection for the accused, why must the accused have such extensive protection against a jury?

    Thoughts? What do you all think of the jury system?
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    "Persons aged sixty-five years or upwards and under the age of seventy years."

    That's the most baffling of the exemptions (the others more or less mostly make sense.)
    Why can you be exempt between 65 and 70, but not before or after?
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    Politics.ie Member FrankSpeaks's Avatar
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    I think it is time for the requirements of the jury system to be examined. One of the main issues that I have is that they are open to intimidation by criminal gangs and terrorist organisations.
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    Politics.ie Member Rocky's Avatar
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    If we destroy Juries, then inevitably you are placing matters into the hands of the Judiciary. Like all bodies and people the Judiciary is corruptible and by taking away the Juries, you are taking away another check and balance.

    Of course Juries aren't perfect. They can be intimidated although intimidation of witness is a lot more common and in the past they have made decisions that completely contradicts all law and evidence, the McNally case being a good example. However at that the Judge is meant to at least to an extent provide a check on Juries.

    However beyond giving the Judiciary total power, which isn’t perfect either I don’t see another option.

    One thing that is happening in many countries is that minor offenses are no longer being tried by a Jury. Here the recent Criminal Justice act goes in the complete opposition direction, by taking Juries away from more serious crimes, which is something I oppose largely for the reasons stated above.

    The whole representative issue wouldn't really concern me because I don’t really see another option and the Juries are picked fairly randomly.
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    Politics.ie Member evercloserunion's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rocky View Post
    If we destroy Juries, then inevitably you are placing matters into the hands of the Judiciary. Like all bodies and people the Judiciary is corruptible and by taking away the Juries, you are taking away another check and balance.

    Of course Juries aren't perfect. They can be intimidated although intimidation of witness is a lot more common and in the past they have made decisions that completely contradicts all law and evidence, the McNally case being a good example. However at that the Judge is meant to at least to an extent provide a check on Juries.

    However beyond giving the Judiciary total power, which isnít perfect either I donít see another option.

    One thing that is happening in many countries is that minor offenses are no longer being tried by a Jury. Here the recent Criminal Justice act goes in the complete opposition direction, by taking Juries away from more serious crimes, which is something I oppose largely for the reasons stated above.

    The whole representative issue wouldn't really concern me because I donít really see another option and the Juries are picked fairly randomly.
    I would consider juries to be more corruptible than the judiciary.
    To live honestly, to hurt no one, to give every one his due.

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    We have to keep Juries. It's good to keep the public involved in the system. Maybe we should look at some of the rules, but I do see Juries as a necessity to the system.
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    Politics.ie Member Rocky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by evercloserunion View Post
    I would consider juries to be more corruptible than the judiciary.
    If that happens Juries can be dismissed and a re-trial can be called.
    "Give us the future, we've had enough of YOUR past, Give us back our country, to live in, to grow in and to love..."

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