Right to a Jury Trial

What is a Jury Trial  

At the foundation of the UK law is the notion that anyone who is accused of a crime should have the right to be tried in front of their peers. Essentially it is a process whereby 12 individuals randomly selected are put in the court environment to determine the facts of the case and to decide, either unanimously or by majority of 10 people whether the accused individual is guilty or not of the alleged crimes.  

Reasons for a Jury Trial

Jury trials happen where cases are heard in crown court and are not used as part of a magistrate’s trial. In civil trials juries may be used in certain limited cases such as fraud or defamation where public perceptions are relevant. It is commonly thought that jury trials are there as a way to provide a check and balance on state power and in order to ensure that an individual is being tested based on the reasonable standards of the public and not those of the legal profession.

Eligibility of Jurors

Only certain people may be eligible for being jurors. Anyone who is eligible to be called as a juror may be called. There are circumstances in which they may then be released but these are limited to extreme situations in order to ensure that selection is as varied as possible.

Eligibility criteria includes those between the ages of 18 and 70 and been resident in the UK for at least 5 years since the age of 13. The individually must be mentally stable and not disqualified in any way. Disqualification issues include being on bail for certain crimes and being within a certain time period of being called for jury service. Pre booked important events such as holidays or weddings will also allow an individual to be discharged.

Challenging the Jury and their Conduct

Initially a jury in waiting is called to a court at a certain location. Although there are no geographic constraints as to where the jury can be called from, in reality they are called to their local court. From this larger group a group of 12 people are called at random from that jury in waiting to be the main jury.

Each member of the jury then needs to affirm an oath that they will give a true verdict based on their religion.

The composition of the jury can be challenged by either the defence or prosecution based on any of the issues of disqualification or reasons such as being personally known to someone involved in the trial. It is possible that the jury can be discharged by the judge either as individuals or in their entirety where it is necessary in the eyes of the judge. A jury may continue for as long as it has the minimum practicable number of jurors left.

Civil and Criminal Juries

Criminal Juries

Criminal juries are the ones most commonly thought of when it comes to a jury trial.

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For more information on:

  • Civil Juries
  • Reasons for a juror to be discharged from service:
  • Is the right to be tried by a jury now at risk?