Majority Verdicts In Australia Essay

1420 words - 6 pages

The role of the jury is to determine innocence or guilt of defendant based on the evidence given in court. The requirement 12 people must find the defendant guilty beyond reasonable doubt has existed in law since the 14th century. In the past 12 jurors had to reach a unanimous verdict which was often difficult to achieve because of rogue jurors. It was inefficient in terms of time and tax payer money. Majority verdicts have been debated extensively since the mid 1990s and there have been three private members bills introduced on the subjectOne of the problems induced by unanimity is that of hung trials. 8% of trials by jury end up hung and this inability to reach a verdict frustrates the administration of justice. Such trials cause emotional, financial and time costs and can end with no sense of closure for the victim.Another problem with unanimous verdicts is that of rogue jurors. Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdrey demonstrates the basic principles behind this issue, as one can see from this quote. Rogue jurors are those that may irrationally and tenaciously refuse to agree with the majority and can debase an entire trial, resulting in time and monetary cost for the entire justice system and ultimately the communityYet another issue is compromised verdicts which are the result of undesirable compromises, for example under Black directions where minority jurors may be coerced to take majority views even if they don’t completely agree. Some may be harassed and bullied into agreement, especially if only one disagrees.Finally, juror corruption is another issue that needed to be addressed. It encourages interference with jurors in order to secure desired verdict. If one juror can be corrupted with bribery or intimidation the rest of the jury is rendered powerless. Using unanimous verdicts, there is more opportunity for corruption – under majority, more than one would need to be approached, which would increase risk of detection.In 1998, local councillor Phuong Ngo was charged with the 1994 murder of John Newman, a political rival who held the seat of Cabramatta. The first trial was aborted by the prosector on a legal technicality, the second ended in a 10:1 hung jury after 13 weeks in May 2000, and the third in 2001 resulted in Ngo’s conviction for joint enterprise, however no other joint enterprisers were convicted. In the final trial, the jurors deliberated for three days after the four month trial.This case illustrated many flaws in unanimous verdicts. Firstly, after three trials only one person was found guilty, that was enough – the jury couldn’t convict co-conspirators which could mean that they hadn’t put complete thought and effort into the conviction. After the second trial, the lone jury who voted for acquittal accused other members of the jury of racism and intimidation, which is an unfortunate problem that sometimes occurs in the jury room. Finally, supporters of Ngo say he was convicted on...

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