Ministry of Justice
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Groundbreaking research finds juries don't discriminate
Juries and the jury system in England and Wales are fair, unbiased and balanced, according to a groundbreaking study today.
The new research shows in particular that the jury system does not discriminate against people from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.
The four-year research study, published today by the Ministry of Justice, shows clearly:
- No differences between white and black and minority ethnic people in responding positively to being summoned for jury service
- Black and minority ethnic groups are not significantly under-represented among those summoned for jury service or among those serving as jurors
- Racially-mixed juries' verdicts do not discriminate against defendants based on their ethnicity
Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, said:
"Juries and the jury system are vital to justice. This unprecedented study is highly encouraging. It strongly suggests that juries and the jury system are working, and working well.
"People want the justice system to provide outcomes which are fair, unbiased and balanced. There is no complacency about justice or the justice system - but this study suggests that juries and the jury system are delivering those objectives, and delivering justice."
The study, Diversity and Fairness in the Jury System, carried out for the Ministry of Justice by the University of Birmingham, uses case simulation with real jurors, as well as examining the verdicts of actual juries, to try to understand jury decision-making.
Lord Falconer, the Justice Secretary drew particular attention to the study's findings on diversity:
"We live in a diverse society, and it is essential that our institutions reflect the communities they serve.
"While concerns about the representation of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds on juries will continue, this study goes a long way towards dispelling myths about how juries operate and will help to maintain and sustain public confidence in juries and the jury system."
* Adopted a court by court approach to assessing the representative nature of jury service, reflecting the fact that jurors are summoned from geographically unique catchment areas for each of the 94 Crown Courts in England and Wales
* Adopted a wider view of diversity than simply ethnicity, examining how juror age, gender, income, employment status, profession, religion and language as well as ethnicity affected whether a summoned juror would serve
* Created a ground-breaking approach to understanding race and jury decision-making in this country, using case simulation with real jurors as well as examining verdicts of actual juries
Research will now be conducted into whether all-white juries show any signs of bias against ethnic minority defendants.
Notes to Editors
1. The research was commissioned in June 2002 in response to the Macpherson Report published in 1999, which followed an inquiry into the Metropolitan police's investigation of the murder of a black teenager, Stephen Lawrence.
2. 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 http://www.cjsonline.gov.uk/juror/index.html and Jury Service on Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS) website http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/infoabout/jury_service/index.htm