For almost 800 years the principle of the jury – that the guilt of anyone accused of a crime should be decided by a panel of their peers – has been the foundation of British justice. A BBC news item said that in the last two years the number of hung juries has more than doubled.In 2006 there were 52 hung juries in England and Wales. Yet last year, there were 116 – an increase of 70 per cent, and more than double the figure just two years previously. The number of juries that are hung is still only a tiny fraction of the total or just 0.7% With the broadly accepted figure of a crown court trial costing up to £80,000 per day, this still means that hung juries cost the taxpayer nearly £30m last year – and that does not include the cost of any retrial. Jurist Trevor Grove – author of The Juryman’s Tale, believes changes in society are being reflected,he said,"I do think that we live in an era when people are much more nervous about being judgmental. Queens Counsel Paul Mendelle commented, “One doesn’t know why these juries are hung; this is not statistically significant – it’s less than a per cent." Although formal research on jury deliberations is almost impossible, notes sent by juries to the judge during their deliberations can give a clue as to what they are thinking – and why they might be stuck.The level of proof required for a defendant to be found Guilty at a criminal trial used to be "beyond reasonable doubt," but judges tend to tell jurors they should be "certain so as you are sure.” Is it acceptable for a juror to convict if he or she is 99 per cent sure, or 95 per cent sure? Judges can accept majority verdicts of at least 10 jurors if a unanimous decision is impossible. Queens Counsel Paul Mendelle commented he would be "wholly against any change which made juries less sure of guilt when people are facing serious crime, when they are at risk of losing their reputation, their livelihood or their liberty. It’s not right that they should go to prison for anything less than certainty. “
Juries are – at their most fundamental level – democracy in action, in each court, every day.They are more nervous about being judgmental. Why I wonder is this? Nervous of having an opinion,a belief in what is right or wrong?Have they been taught no morals by parents or at school? Have they no opinions forged by experience on which to base a judgement or are there minds like reeds in the wind – swayed by the latest newscast or politically correct thought for the day? If this unhealthy trend of jurists continues no defendant will be found guilty! That will save money spent on the trial although redundancy payments will be necessary for all those clerks, lawyers and judges. Prisons can close and be reopened to house the flood of immigrants who we all see on our streets but who government does not. The logic continues for with noone to enforce the law we can disband the police forces. The lack of moral fibre is already apparent in the large number of people who do not vote – for fear of being judgemental? Close down parliament? Introduce anarchy?