Diversity & the Jury System in England and Wales

Why Judges & Juries
Need (Some) Academics
Professor Cheryl Thomas
Director, UCL Jury Project
Co-Director, UCL Judicial Institute
UCL Faculty of Laws
How the
Jury System
has benefited from
academic study
What Do We Know
About Juries Here?
In 2003 when Jury Project started
• no research since 1992 (Zander
Crown Court Study for Runciman
What filled black hole?
• Professional anecdote
• High profile cases
• Foreign research
• Historic view of juries
UCL Jury Project
Guiding Principle
Research conducted only with actual juries at Crown
Courts in England & Wales
Multi-method approach
1. Large-scale analysis of actual jury verdicts
2. Surveys of jurors
3. Case simulation – with real juries at court
2 Reports
2007 Diversity & Fairness in Jury System
2010 Are Juries Fair?
What Do We Know Now
Who does (and does not do) jury service
Whether juries are:
• fair
• effective
Whether juries understand:
• jury process
• judicial directions
Whether media has impact
Myths Exposed (post Auld)
• There is no mass avoidance of jury service:
85% of those summoned reply & vast majority serve
• Jury pools are representative of local populations
• High income earners have highest rate of service
• Ethnic minorities, women and self-employed are not
under-represented among serving jurors
• Unemployed and retired are under-represented
Reforms not needed to summoning system
Are Juries Racially Biased?
Large number of juries saw an identical case (ABH)
Only difference was the race of the defendant
(Black, White or Asian defendants)
Study run with large number of all-White & racially mixed
juries at courts around the country
FINDINGS: No Evidence of Racial Bias
Verdicts didn’t differ
No evidence of racial stereotyping
Supported by analysis of all jury verdicts 2006-08
All Jury Verdicts 2006-08
Jury conviction rate
No difference in conviction rates based on ethnicity
(68,874 jury verdicts )
Not Known
Defendant ethnic group
Myths about Jury
Conviction Rates Exposed
Analysed all jury verdicts 2006-08
64% conviction rate
Offence, court, number of offences, ethnicity
Offence type was the key factor in difference in
conviction rates
Making indecent photos of children
Death by dangerous driving
Drug possession with intent to supply
Money transfer by deception
Conspiracy to rob
Falsely obtaining benefit, Conspiracy to defraud
Handling stolen goods, Burglary
Unlawful wounding (s.20)
GBH (s.18)
Attempted murder
Common assault
Threatening to kill
Making indecent photos of children
Death by dangerous driving
Drug possession with intent to supply
Money transfer by deception
Conspiracy to rob
Falsely obtaining benefit, Conspiracy to defraud
Handling stolen goods, Burglary
Unlawful wounding (s.20)
GBH (s.18)
Attempted murder
Common assault
Threatening to kill
The Truth About
Juries & Rape Cases
Reality: Juries convict more often than acquit in rape
• 55% conviction rate: 4,310 verdicts, all courts, 2 years
• Home Office report (Kelly et al 2005) claimed juries
acquit most often: 181 verdicts, few courts, short time
• Low conviction rate for rape (6%) is not due to juries.
Postcode Lottery in Jury Trials?
Myth: Juries rarely convict defendants at certain courts
(eg, Snaresbrook)
Reality: Jury conviction rates by court range from 69%-53%
So no courts where juries acquit more than convict
(Snaresbrook = 65%)
Are Juries Effective Decision-Makers?
Once sworn:
• Rarely discharged (<1%)
• Deliberate on 89% of charges
Once they deliberate
• Reach verdict over 99% time
Hung juries – almost always:
• on multiple charges
• reach some verdict
Juror Understanding of
Legal Directions
Most jurors (68%) said legal directions were easy to
But only 31% correctly identified both key questions
after oral directions
Written summary of directions substantially improved
What Does It Mean?
It does not mean most jurors didn’t understand legal instructions.
Means they did not always see them in same legal terms used by judge.
But written summary improves comprehension of specifics of law
Did the defendant use reasonable force when he hit
the victim?
Did the defendant believe it was necessary to hit the
victim to protect himself?
Did the victim push the defendant first before he was
Did the defendant run away because he saw the
When the defendant hit the victim did he intended to
harm him?
Did the victim lie in the witness box?
Was the victim drunk when the defendant punched
Are Jurors Influenced by Media?
The “fade factor” exists:
Jurors mostly recall in-trial, not pre-trial, media reports
But 1/3 in high profile cases recalled some pre-trial coverage
And 20% of jurors on high profile cases who recalled media covera
said they found it hard to put it out of their mind
Juror Use of Internet
Jurors use the internet to look for information about cases despite judicial
directions against it
More jurors said they saw information on internet
during trial than admitted actually looking for it:
• High profile cases: 26% saw - 12% looked
• Standard cases: 13% saw - 5% looked
Not primarily younger jurors: most jurors who looked
on internet were over 30 (81% in high profile cases).
What we still don’t know:
• How are jurors using internet/social media?
What is most effective way to ensure jurors do not use internet
Do Jurors Understand the Process?
Jury Deliberations & Improper Conduct
• Almost all jurors (82%) felt jurors should not be allowed
to speak about what occurs in jury deliberations
• Most jurors (67%) wanted more information about how
to conduct deliberations
• Almost half (48%) were uncertain or did not know what
to do about improper jury conduct
New UCL Jury Project Research
• Preventing improper conduct
(inc. internet)
• Improving jury deliberations
• Impact of special measures
• Judicial directions on law
• Insanity & fitness to plead
• Contempt
Research agenda devised after consultation with
judges, HMCTS, and others
Where Academics Go Wrong
Why Academics Need Judges & Juries
Most academics fail to consult judges, court
service, legal community before:
• identifying areas of research
• determining methods for examining topics – that
are most effective and also do not adversely
impact the justice system
Jury Research Myths
Myths about what can and cannot be explored with
real juries have affected both the jury policy and
research agenda
Myth of S. 8 Contempt of Court Act 1981: it is a criminal
offence to
“Obtain, disclose or solicit any particulars of statements made,
opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast by
members of a jury in the course of their deliberations”
Jury Research
Misunderstandings about how to address specific
jury questions have led to misguided “jury research”
Example being how to address whether juries are
racially biased – belief was it was impossible
because of s.8.
But all s.8 prevents me from doing is asking juries
that convicted black defendants whether they
convicted him because he was black…. Not
effective methodology
Jury Research Mistakes
Mistakes about how to properly use jury research
methodologies have produced questionable if not
dangerous research findings
Great rush to use case simulation – but outside of
UCL Jury project case simulation is never done in
this country with real juries: students, volunteers,
etc. used instead
Most “jury research” is in fact
not done with actual jurors
not done with authentic and complete case materials
not conducted at jury verdict level
not conducted with large enough or representative sample sizes
Most researchers looking
only to discover problems
No attempt to test solutions
“Merely to explain and understand is to fiddle
while Rome burns.” Ronald V. Clarke
Why Does It Matter?
Not just narrow points about methodology
Real world impact
• Challenges facing trial by jury in 21st century …
including criminal law reforms based on little
more than assumptions about how juries work
• Jury Project showed proposed summoning
reforms based on false assumptions
• Danger that criminal law reforms are
introduced that do not achieve ends
or have counter-productive effect
Important questions in need
of reliable research
Evidence: complex, forensic, fraud, remote, virtual
• Do juries understand complex evidence?
• Do juries really defer to experts?
• What is best way of presenting complex evidence to jury to
ensure it is understood?
• Is there a CSI effect?
• How does visual presentation affect jurors?
• How do jurors perceive “virtual” evidence?
What about Judges?
Know even less about judges and courts
No history of judicial studies in UK
Shocking in 21st century
The judiciary is the third branch of government, equal in
importance to the legislature and executive in this country.
Today, there is isn’t a single important social issue in our society
that judges at some point aren’t asked to adjudicate.
Yet in the UK the academic community has not really addressed
the reality of judging or served the judiciary well with robust
empirical research on the judicial process.
The UCL Judicial Institute has been established to rectify this and
create a home for world-leading scholarship on the judiciary
Danger of Lack of Study of
Judges & Courts
Same as with juries
Myths will abound & Reform agendas will be set by
• Unsubstantiated anecdote
• Out of date perception of judges and courts
• Perceptions based on media interest in certain issues
But perhaps even more dangerous than lack of
empirical study of juries
• Juries have judiciary and public to defend them –
judiciary lacks in-built public support and currently
has little empirical evidence to help fight its corner
JI Approach
• Empirical research as starting point for deeper
understanding of judges, juries and courts
• Research agenda devised in consultation with
judges, practitioners and courts
• Judges with role to play in academia
Projects: Tribunal Decision-Making, UKSC Project
Academics & Practitioners:
Friends or Foes?
Reality is we are neither friend nor foe
We’ve been strangers for far too long
This is disservice not just to both professions
but more importantly to the quality of justice

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