Disadvantages Of Trial By Jury
From my experience the main issue with jury trials is that they can be heavily influenced by personalities. The eloquence of the defence and prosecution barristers is very significant but don’t underestimate the influence of members of the jury as well. All it takes is 1 or 2 forceful personalities to shift the verdict.
My advice if you are sitting on a jury is to form your own opinion based on the evidence before you and try to ignore the more emotive messages you might be getting from the defence, prosecution and fellow jurors.
Other disadvantages of the jury system are below:
- There can be no retrial on acquittal (recent reforms may have changed this for serious crimes)
- Incorrect acquittals due to jury ‘nobbling’
- No investigation into the juries deliberations, even if a juror alleges inappropriate behaviour by other jurors
- Jury vetting is contrary to the idea of random jury selection.
- Jury trials are expensive
- Defendants and defence teams may manipulate the jurors
- Perverse verdicts undermine the principle of justice, and the rule of law. (and are actually very rare)
- Defying the will of the democratically elected legislature.
- Juries return the wrong verdict – series of miscarriages of justice undermine confidence.
- Jurors may be tempted to reach a quick verdict in order to get it over with and go home.
- Law on jury secrecy could allow the innocent to remain convicted rather than make reasonable enquiries into how verdict was obtained (R v Mirza)
- Selection of juries to obtain racial mix not allowed.
- Ethnic minorities often do not register to vote.
- Ethnic minorities do not have the language skills to be effective jurors.
- Can be biased against one party or the other.
- Local prejudice can be a problem in particularly emotive cases Litchfield moved to Exeter for this reason.
- Are mislead by barristers’ techniques as to strength of evidence.
- Judge has to explain legal matters.
- Majority verdicts can convict when there is doubt which should have been given to the defendant.
- Easily influenced by impressive barristers, or the judge.
- Juries not required to give reasons for verdicts.
- Insufficient intellect. Cannot follow complicated tax or fraud cases. Note: can be judge-only trial in some cases.
- Inconsistencies throughout the country.
- Young jurors no life experience.
- Jury members can have a string of convictions not serious enough to disqualify.
- Also, disqualified jurors still find their way into the jury box.
- Role of the jury is merely symbolic of public involvement.
- Can become bored during the trial.
- Inconvenience and financial loss to jurors.
- Slow. Some trials e.g. fraud can take many weeks or months.
- Lack of research defies assessment.
- Horrific cases can seriously affect jurors who have to sit through harrowing evidence.
- The existence of juries distract from real problems in the criminal justice system people believe their existence means the CJ system is functioning well.
- Many serious cases do not provide for jury trial, for example drink driving.
- There is no choice but jury trial in indictable offences, summary trial cannot be elected.
- Juries do not understand the burden of proof.