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29 November 2005

Comments

Unity

Why? There’s no research into what goes on in the jury room. It’s illegal to ask a juror what thought processes led to the decision.

True enough, although there is a considerable body of research on jury processes from simulations using mock trials which, despite the obvious limitations of simulated studies, does have some relevance.

In particular studies which have concentrated on jury perceptions of defendents have shown that juries tend to be more lenient when faced with a professional in the dock if the charge is unrelated to the professional status or occupation but harder on them if the charge realted to their professional activities.

It's all common sense really - there's nothing the police hate more than a bent copper, that lawyers hate more than a corrupt lawyer and doctors hate more than incompetent doctor. We are all naturally inclined to be harder on those we perceive to have 'let the side down' when they should know better.

I've been looking at some of this research only last week in the context of the Swansea rape case and out of basic interest as a psychologist by training and all the research I've seen tends to show that juries are reliably rational actors in the trial process particularly in assessing the value of evidence where physical evidence is invariably given most weight, followed by that staple of the detective novel, means, motive and opportunity, after which perceptions about the defendant and witnesses come into play.

All things being equal, in a complex fraud case where the balance of evidence is around 50-50 one would, from the research, expect a jury to convict more often than acquit as the defendants in such cases will generally have a degree of professional status which will count against them in such offences.

I'd take the view that juries present few real problems in complex fraud cases, if they do go under at trial its almost always due to problems with evidence.

Tony

Unity,
I seem to recall some jury evidence from mock trials. If you're going to chuck out juries even in SF cases, it may be better to allow some real research.
On the substative point, I never came across a fraud case, some serious, that a jury could not understand. Most jurors can sniff out dishonesty a mile way, and that's the crux of all of these cases.
It was always down to the prosecutor and judge. But this is a problem in other, non complex-fraud, cases, that do not present the difficulties Polly Parrot wrote about.
I don't think anyone has suggested abolishing juries for Health and Safety cases. They are just as complex as serious fraud, last just as long and are as taxing on the jurors.

Cheers
t

David

Surely this can't be the the same Vera Baird MP,QC who followed T. Blair through the Lobby during the debate on the Terrorism Bill supporting 90 day detention without trial ....or am I mishtaken?

Tony

David,
The very same.
Though I'm not sure I see the link between non-jury trials and the Terrorism Bill.
It's not insignificant that Vera was appointed PPS to Charles Clarke at the beginning of November. She's now on the payroll.

t

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