Government commits to jury research following review

Written by on 30 September 2015 in News

Scottish Government to take forward recommendation in the wake of Lord Bonomy review

Research on jury decision-making in criminal trials across Scotland will be undertaken, the Scottish Government has confirmed.

Officials have held initial discussions with interested parties and are now considering the methodology such research would adopt.

It comes after current and former senior prosecutors within the Crown Office warned of a lack of insight into how jurors approach complex cases such as those involving sexual crimes.

Advocate depute Kath Harper, who heads up the National Sexual Crimes Unit in the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), told Holyrood in April that members of the Scottish public have been left with “absolutely no idea” as to how juries are reaching verdicts.

Harper’s comments echoed those of former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, who has urged further research to ensure individuals with conditions such as learning disabilities are able to contribute fully to the justice process.

Academic research into the process of decision-making of juries in criminal trials within the UK has been largely limited amid concerns about protecting the secrecy of deliberations.

However, former High Court judge Lord Bonomy earlier this year called for research into jury reasoning and decision-making as part of his review on safeguards in the event of the corroboration requirement being abolished.

This work, which it is estimated could take up to two years, would then be used to inform any changes to jury size, majority and verdicts, argued Lord Bonomy’s report.

The Ministry of Justice last year rejected a Law Commission recommendation to reform section 8 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, which is seen by many to inhibit research.     

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