The Jury Selection Procedure in the English Legal System The theory behind modern day trial by jury can be traced back some
eight hundred years, to the sixty-three clauses of the Magna Carta
(1215). One of these clauses reads; “ No free man shall be arrested,
or imprisoned, or deprived of his property, or outlawed, or exiled, or
in any way destroyed, nor shall we go against him or send him against,
unless by legal judgement of his peers, or by the law of the land.”
The Magna Carta gave English nobles and freemen the right to trial
via a panel of their peers. In addition, the concept could also have
stemmed from Normandy (pre 1066) when a panel of adjudicators was
customary to decide land disputes. Many ancient cultures, such as the
Ancient Judea, had similar philosophies. The independence of the jury
from the judge was established in Bushell’s case (1670). A judge’s
role is ‘master of law’. He is responsible for interpreting the law in
the case, enforcing the law, deciding the sentence and passing it,
guiding the jury and avoiding bias at all costs. Whereas, the jury is
‘master of fact’ and is the sole decider of innocence or guilt. A
judge is forbidden from participating in the decision-making
In part A of this essay, I will describe the jury selection procedure
as it stands in the English Legal System. In part B, I will consider
alternatives, suggest improvements to jury selection procedure, and
discuss how representative it is of English society.
The method of jury selection in the English legal system is for a
computer to arbitrarily pick individuals from the electoral rolls for
the locality of the court. Around 450,000 people are randomly selected
every year to partake in jury duty. Anyone one can be chosen, as long
as they meet the criteria specified, this being that you have to be a
registered voter between the ages of eighteen and seventy and that you
have lived in the UK for at least five consecutive years since the age
of thirteen. Although only twelve jurors are required, it is necessary
to choose a lot more people than needed due to the following
exclusions for eligibility:
* Persons suffering from a mental disorder.
* Members of judiciary or others concerned with the administration
* The Clergy.
* People with certain criminal convictions.
* Those currently on bail in criminal proceedings.
Excused as of right
· Anyone aged sixty-five to seventy years old.
· Anyone who has already partaken in jury service in the last two
· Members of Parliament.
· The medical professions.
· The armed forces.
· Practising members of a religious society.