Friday, February 18, 2005

Jury secrecy

To what extent, really, is the law applied in the jury room? The almost impenetrable veil of secrecy behind which jury deliberations are conducted prevents exposure of such injustice as may occur. The law deems the secrecy to be worth that price.

A glimpse into what jurors can get up to is given in R v Smith (No 2) [2005] UKHL 12 (16 February 2005), at para 11. The remedy, quashing the convictions and potentially ordering a retrial, fits the particular case, but it was only possible because one juror was concerned enough to write to the judge during the deliberations.

There is a case for observing jury deliberations, for example, by closed circuit television monitoring, to ensure no errors are made in the application of the law. Of course issues of juror anonymity and appropriate intervention would arise, as would problems of catering for unrepresented accused persons.

How much honesty can the system cope with?

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