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Does trail by jury need reform?

Uploaded by jmurdoch on May 05, 2002

Question: How far do you agree with the proposal that trial by jury should be radically reformed? (note this is an English law essay)



In the last year a number of legal reforms have been proposed by the current government. Firstly there are the Mode of Trial Bills, currently No. 2 is going through it’s readings. No.1 failed to make it through the hose of Lords. Then there is the Auld report that recommends a radical restructuring of the court system and cutting down on the number of cases that are tried by the Crown Court.

One area that all of these projects seek to reform is trial by jury as it is claimed to expensive, open to abuse and time consuming for all parties involved.

There is no historical right to trial by jury. The Magna Carter makes no reference to it, popular misconception not withstanding. Its first occurrence in a recognisable form can be seen the twelfth century, during the reign of Henry II. Here the jury consisted of the accused friends and neighbours rather than today’s dozen randomly selected adults. Previous to this the jury was a Norman convention made up of 12 men prepared to swear on oath as to the persons innocence. Failure to get the dozen men confirmed guilt since oaths then had a religious zeal and no one would run risk of eternal damnation by lying under oath. Trial by ordeal ceased in 1215 after it was condemned by pope innocent III. Trial by battle, to the death between accuser and defendant, existed by statute at the same time and was not repealed until 1819.

A important and unique part of the English legal system is that of summary trail by magistrates. In this a panel of, usually, three lay people hear the case and decide on fact, guilt and any punishment. Magistrates account for upwards of 97% of all judicial hearings today.

In 1855 such was the workload of indictable cases coming before the common law courts that an act was passed allowing such cases to be settled without a jury if the parties agreed to it. This attempt to speed up the wheels of justice created the “either way” cases that are now being blamed for slowing the same wheels down. Over the next 150 years more offences were added to the either way list and more cases lost their entitlement to trial by jury most...

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Uploaded by:   jmurdoch

Date:   05/05/2002

Category:   Law

Length:   11 pages (2,530 words)

Views:   2465

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