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Jury system in need of  urgent reform, for fairness

Jury system in need of urgent reform, for fairness

Responding to your report “Let jurors speak, says Lindy Chamberlain” by Subiaco Post (Perth) editor Brett Christian, 3 Sept 2011: I fully support Lindy Chamberlain Creighton’s call for jurors to be allowed to speak publicly and debate their verdicts. About 10 years ago jurors in WA were banned from disclosing discussions in the jury room. Lindy was promoting an international justice conference to be held in Perth on 8-10  March in 2012, organised by Justice WA.  

I say jurors should be able to discuss their verdicts so long as they don’t name other jurors; also, members of the public should not be allowed to solicit jurors to discuss what was said in the jury room. But, if members of the jury want to publicly discuss how and why they reached their verdicts, that’s OK so long as they don’t name fellow jurors.

Over the years, jurors have publicly debated what happened in the jury room, with the result in some cases help to clear the convicted person’s name.
We the public can only learn from the pluses and minuses so as to be able to improve the jury system, we can only achieve this by allowing jurors who want to debate publicly how and why they reached their verdicts. After all, the trials by judge and jury are held in open court and the jury can only debate what was said in the Court under oath, so there is no problem publicly debating with jurors who want to speak publicly about the case.

The jury system has been with us since King John’s Magna Carta of 1215 AD, almost 800 years, and is in need of urgent reform. Taking advantage of today’s well established technology, jurors in criminal cases, in fairness to the accused and the administration of justice, should give reasons on a CD for their verdicts in at least abbreviated form, in the jury room under the chairmanship of the foreperson of the jury. This reform will improve the system and bring them in to line with magistrates and judges who must give reasons for their verdicts.  I suggest jurors only need to give reasons for guilty verdicts.

Over the years members of the jury have told me in an unfair trial, when the accused is forced to defend himself without competent counsel, even though the State evidence is compelling, they find the accused not guilty because the evidence was not tested by competent counsel. I suppose you would call such a verdict a protest verdict.

Alternatively, if the governments of Australia are not prepared to implement fairness as outlined by me, then it’s overdue that the jury system has served its purpose, and it’s too dangerous to continue, because there are too many innocent people being convicted on the "performance of the day" as opposed to proven fact.

I realise if the jury system was to be abolished in federal matters, because it is part of our Constitution, it would have to be voted on by the people in a referendum.

Brian G Tennant, Member of CLA,
Subiaco, Perth, WA

PS: Jury trials represent only a small fraction (approximately 0.3%) of all criminal proceedings adjudicated in Western Australia:"

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