Research into juries
In February 2010, the Ministry of Justice published a major research report on juries. The report, Are Juries Fair was written by Cheryl Thomas, Professor at the Centre for Empirical Legal Studies at University College London. It is the result of a two-year long survey of more than 1,000 jurors at Crown Courts and a separate study of over 68,000 jury verdicts.
The report reveals that:
- all-white juries do not discriminate against defendants from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds
- juries almost always reach a verdict and convict two-thirds of the time
- there are no courts where juries acquit more often than convict.
It also shows that:
- jurors want more information about how to do their job
- written instructions improve jurors’ legal understanding of cases
- some jurors use the internet to look for information about their case
- some jurors find media reports of their case difficult to ignore.
At the moment the practical consequences that might flow from the research are not clear; there have been suggestions that judges may need to give more written instructions to jurors about how they should approach cases in which they are involved.