Expert: Jury confusion is judge's responsibility


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The Independent Online

Britain’s leading expert on juries has staunchly defended the country’s trial system following the “fundamental deficits of understanding” that saw the jurors in the Vicky Pryce trial discharged.

Cheryl Thomas, the leading advisor on juries to the Government and judiciary, said that juries were “effective”, “fair” and delivered a verdict “99 per cent of the time”.

The Professor of Judicial Studies at University College London, said that Mr Justice Sweeny’s  “extraordinary decision” was made in response to an “exceptional jury” but that it was “the responsibility of the judge to explain the law and their role to a jury”. She added: “There are probably a number of members of that jury that might feel quite aggrieved at the way the case has been reported or how they have been described.”

Prof Thomas, who authored a Ministry of Justice report into the fairness of juries, said: “We need to be extremely careful about drawing any conclusions about the jury system as a whole from one very exceptional jury. We have a system that is incredibly fair. Almost everyone is eligible for jury service and must serve. Our research showed that juries chosen from such a representative group of people are systematically fair.”

Senior lawyers also rallied to the defence of the jury system. Lord Woolf, the former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, said that he “would not want to condemn a well-tried jury system on the basis of one particular case”. Meanwhile Lord Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, said that the strength of the British system was “that we bring citizens to its heart.”