Jury Essay

Juries are a vital part of our legal system and our democracy, allowing members of the community to participate directly in the administration of justice. Being a juror does not require any special skills, expertise or education. It is important to be confident in your own ability to understand and make a decision. The real value of a jury is that it brings together people from different backgrounds so that there is a variety of attitudes and experience. Jury service is a fundamental responsibility of all citizens, as well as being a unique and rare privilege.

A) Juries are used in both criminal and civil trails in the Supreme Court and County Court. There are several differences in juries with both criminal and civil trials. Firstly, it is compulsory in criminal trials to have a jury but it is optional in civil trials. There is also a difference in numbers in the jury. In criminal cases, only twelve people are required and in civil cases, only six people are required. However, at times in criminal trials, there maybe fifteen people empanelled, which is because of a longer case which would require a longer period of time.

Another difference in the jury is their responsibility. In both cases, the jury are called up to represent the community and to decide who is guilty, innocent, liable or not liable. In a civil trial, after deciding whether the wronged party is liable or not, it is also up to the jury as to how much compensation the party is to receive for damages. In a criminal trial, the jury decides whether or not the accused is innocent or guilty. If found guilty, it is not up to the jury but the judge, to decide a suitable form of punishment. The juries verdict is also based upon the evidence and facts of the case, but also the two different standards of proof. In a criminal trial, the standard of proof, is beyond reasonable doubt and in a civil trial, the standard of proof is balance of probabilities. These are some differences in the use of juries between criminal and civil trials.

B) Under the Juries Act. 2000, the jury donít represent a cross-section of a community very well. The 2000 Act, restricts a few people such as teachers, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, pregnant women, people over 65 or living more than 32 kilometres from court. Due to this restriction, it reduces the cross section of the community by a lot. However, The Juries Act. 2002 amends the previous Act. Automatic exemptions for people over 65, teachers, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, airline pilots, pregnant women will not apply anymore and also for people who live less than 50 kilometres from Melbourne or less than 60 kilometres from the country court will be required to attend. These newly introduced changes will overcome quite a few flaws made in the previous Act which restricts some of the community from participating. However, these recent changes to the law will certainly make juries represent a cross-section of the community a lot better.

C) Juries are the best method for listening to cases, and finding a verdict on which jurors agree on. The main reason for juries being the best method is because it has been used for a long time and many people feel comfortable with the idea of being tried by their peers, who are everyday members of the community, rather than elite members of the legal society. Using everyday members of the society also gives greater participation and also a broader range of backgrounds, skills and experiences to share with each other to form a verdict. However, there are disadvantages of the jury system, which revolve around three main issues such as the quality of the jury decision making, the efficiency of the jurors and the political and social value of the jury system. The quality of the juryís decision is questionable at times as they do not need to reveal the reasons behind it. This can also go into the political and social values in which each juror has, which may alter the whole verdict without evidence. The efficiency of the jurors is another disadvantage, as some people may not comprehend as fast as others and may require more time