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Jury Directions

In January 2008, the Attorney-General asked the Victorian Law Reform Commission to review and recommend changes to simplify, shorten or improve the directions given by judges to juries in criminal trials.  

The Commission released a consultation paper in September 2008 and a further background paper in December 2008. The Commission received 18 submissions, and held a two-day symposium with other law reform commissions, judges and academics to discuss the issues.

The Commission delivered its final report to the Attorney-General on 1 June 2009, and the report was tabled in Parliament on 29 July 2009. The report recommended significant legislative reforms to improve jury direction processes in criminal trials. 

The final report and the other papers can be downloaded from the links below. Free print copies can be ordered from the Commission. 

Implementation

Recommendation number 1 of the report was that 'The law concerning jury directions in criminal trials should be located in a single statute.'

Thiis happened when the Jury Directions Act 2015 (Vic) came into force on 29 June 2015, enshrining many of  the Commission's recommendations in legislation.

The 2015 Act stated that jury directions should be as clear, brief, simple and comprehensible as possible. Judges should avoid technical legal language wherever possible, and should only direct the jury on points of law that the jury needs to know. The Act states that the judge need not use any particular form of words. 

The changes also simplify and clarify important directions in regard to evidence.

The Jury Directions and Other Acts Amendment Act 2017 (Vic) subsequently implemented a number of amendments relating to directions regarding the reliability of a witness's evidence, a witness's motive to lie, and complainants' accounts of an alleged sexual offence. It also implemented the Commission's recommendations that judges can order a jury guide to be given to the jury to help it perform its functions and substituted the term “victim’s” for “complainant’s” in jury directions.

On 29 August 2017 the Jury Directions and Other Acts Amendment Act 2017 (Vic) was assented to. 

View the Jury Directions and Other Acts Amendment Act 2017.

Timeline

Current:

Full timeline:

Reference
Consultation
Submissions
Final report
Tabled in parliament

Project Publications

Pages

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