We like a round dozen

In recent days the issue of jury size seems to have reared its ugly head.


The lord chancellor and the lord chief justice let alone the leader of the labour party have all been drawn into discussion about reducing juries from twelve to seven members.


Once upon a time in the pandemic the agreement for reducing juries by five people could be justified on the basis of there being insufficient space for jurors to consider cases whilst spaced sufficiently far apart to maintain social distancing. As time has gone by and the social distancing rules have been relaxed and the court buildings have adapted to create more spacious jury boxes and retiring rooms, the need for change is greatly reduced.


There remains the issue of jurors being taken ill during the course of a jury or being unavailable because they have to self-isolate but those difficulties seem to be modest in comparison to the sea of change being proposed for the justice system.


With a twelve person jury there would be scope for at least two jury members to be able to self isolate before the case had to be halted, the problem of a member of a member of a smaller jury finding themselves in the same position would be potentially as castophroic and there would be little or no scope to be able to continue in the absence of even one jury member.


Smaller juries were utilised in the war time but its hard to consider statistics from that period, bearing in mind the extreme conditions in which cases were being conducted. Nevertheless, it does seem that evidence indicates a higher rate of conviction with a smaller jury and there can be no doubting that there is greater scope for a strong personality to carry greater sway with a smaller rather than a larger group of people.


As far as getting a representative jury from any community, or a jury that is profoundly mixed in terms of age, sex and ethnicity, the changes for diversity are greater in a twelve person rather than a seven person group.


So, all things being equal we will settle for the good old imperial twelve rather than one under the eight!



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