The Victorian Law Reform Commission has released a new report recommending changes to the way that juries are selected for trials, a process known as jury empanelment.
The report contains 16 recommendations to improve the way in which juries are selected in court and how additional jurors empanelled for long trials should be managed.
The report was tabled in Parliament on 3 September 2014. The main recommendations include:
Reducing the number of jurors that both sides can challenge, from six to three in criminal cases and from three to two in civil cases. This will help to ensure that juries are representative of the community.
Protecting the privacy of jurors by always identifying them in court by number instead of by name.
Changes to the jury empanelment process to make it less stressful for jurors and the accused.
Abolishing the practice of ‘balloting off’ any extra jurors empanelled for long trials, before the jury retires to consider its verdict, due to the distress this can cause.
The Victorian Law Reform Commission consulted widely with the community, receiving 18 submissions and conducting 36 consultations. The Commission received 381 responses to its juror survey, which helped to inform its recommendations.
Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission the Hon. Philip Cummins AM said: "Two key principles of jury trials are that that the jury should be impartial and be representative. These recommendations will help to ensure that we have juries that represent the Victorian community and are impartial. The effect of the process upon jurors also is important. Jurors should be properly respected at all times."
The report and recommendations can be accessed at http://www.lawreform.vic.gov.au/
Chair of the Victorian Law Reform Commission, The Hon. Philip Cummins AM, is available for interview.
MEDIA CONTACT: Nick Gadd, communications manager, Victorian Law Reform Commission (03) 8608 7824 / 0425 862 119.