Ministry of Justice
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Ground-breaking research finds juries are fair and effective

Juries in England and Wales have been found to be fair, effective and efficient by the most in-depth study into the issue ever undertaken in this country, published today.

Are juries fair? by Cheryl Thomas, Professor at the Centre for Empirical Legal Studies at University College London, is a two-year long survey of more than 1,000 jurors at Crown Courts and a separate study of over 68,000 jury verdicts.

In the report, sensitive issues about jury decision-making have been tackled for the first time.

It reveals that:

  • all-white juries do not discriminate against defendants from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds
  • juries almost always reach a verdict and convict two-thirds of the time
  • there are no courts where juries acquit more often than convict.

It also shows that:

  • jurors want more information about how to do their job
  • written instructions improve jurors’ legal understanding of cases
  • some jurors use the internet to look for information about their case
  • some jurors find media reports of their case difficult to ignore.

Professor Thomas said:

‘This research shows that juries in England and Wales were found to be fair, effective and efficient – and should lay to rest any lingering concerns that racially-balanced juries are needed to ensure fairness in trials with BME defendants or racial evidence.

‘But it is also clear from the research that jurors want and need better information to perform this crucial role. The study recommends that all sworn jurors be issued with written guidelines explaining what improper conduct is, including use of the internet, and how and when to report it. The study also recommends that judges consider issuing jurors with written instructions on the law to be applied in each case. Both changes will help maintain the integrity of the jury system.’

The study tackles racial discrimination, jury conviction rates, juror comprehension and improper conduct, juror use of the internet and media coverage of jury trials.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw said:

‘The jury system is working, and working well. The study’s findings on the fairness of jury decisions, including for people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, will help to maintain public confidence in juries and the jury system.

‘But we cannot allow complacency about the justice system. We will carefully consider the recommendations for helping jurors do their job to the best of their ability.’

The investigation:

  • Used a highly realistic case simulation with 797 real jurors at three Crown Courts in different parts of the country with different local ethnic populations.
  • Conducted a post-verdict study with 668 jurors serving on high profile cases and standard cases to examine media coverage of jury trials.
  • Carried out a separate large-scale study of over 68,000 verdicts reached by all juries at all Crown Courts in England and Wales between 2006 and 2008.

Notes to editors

  1. The full report: Are juries fair?
  2. Professor Thomas, of the Centre for Empirical Legal Studies at University College London, is the country’s leading jury expert.
    Professor Thomas’ study of the representative nature of the jury system,
    Diversity and fairness in the jury system was published by Ministry of Justice in June 2007.
  3. For further information on every aspect of jury service including selection, summoning, frequently asked questions, expenses and what happens at court, visit the juror section of CJS Online  and jury service on Her Majesty’s Courts Service (HMCS) website.
  4. For further information please contact the Ministry of Justice press office on 020 3334 3536.

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