CRIMINAL LAW SOLICITORS' ASSOCIATION

Criminal Procedure Rule Committee - new juror notice pilots - information for the professions

The Criminal Procedure Rule Committee has asked that members are notified of the contents of a notice which will be piloted shortly to jurors concerning juror conduct, as follows:

 At the request of the Lord Chief Justice and the Criminal Procedure Rule Committee, Professor Thomas QC, the Director of the UCL Jury Project, is conducting tests of a new form of notice to jurors the object of which is to improve their understanding of the obligations and prohibitions to which they are subject. Initial tests at the Central Criminal Court have proved very successful and now it is to be piloted more widely with a view to its national adoption in the autumn.

The impetus was a Divisional Court case last year, SG v Smith, SG v Dean, in and after which the court called for action to improve jurors’ understanding of, in particular, why it was wrong and unfair to research a case online and share any such research with fellow jurors. Professor Thomas has brought her expertise to bear and has developed a process under which at the end of the judge’s opening remarks each juror is handed a personal copy of a very clear, simple and explanatory notice, which the trial judge then introduces and to which the judge again refers at the end of the trial. During the pilot judges have been ensuring that parties to the case receive a copy of the notice before the jury is sworn. Click here for a copy.

In the initial tests at the CCC jurors’ comprehension, measured by anonymous surveys conducted with sworn jurors prior to the pilot and then during the pilot, improved dramatically. On the face of it, the cost to HMCTS of producing the new notice, and any small amount of extra time needed to introduce it to jurors, should be amply outweighed by a reduction in the number of retrials and appeals caused by ill-informed conduct by a juror. Further pilots will take place at a number of Crown Court centres around the country during the months of June to September and the process will continue to be used at the Bailey. Unless results elsewhere differ markedly, the scheme is likely to be adopted throughout England and Wales during the autumn.

If representatives who have been involved in cases in which the new juror notice has been used have any comments they would like to share with Professor Thomas, she would be happy to receive these and she may be contacted at: cheryl.thomas@ucl.ac.uk

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