New laws to make the directions given to juries shorter and less complex are being introduced to the Victorian Parliament, based on the recommendations of the Victorian Law Reform Commission’s 2009 report, Jury Directions, as well as those of other legal bodies.
The reforms will allow judges to answer juries’ questions about the meaning of ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’, simplify the way that judges explain to juries what they need to decide in reaching their verdict, and ensure that judges summarise the evidence succinctly. It is hoped that the bill will make criminal trials shorter and reduce the number of appeals.
Attorney-General Robert Clark said: “Complex jury directions lead to unnecessary appeals and retrials that are a significant cause of delay in the court system, as well as unnecessary trauma and stress for victims, witnesses and others. That’s why we committed to act on the VLRC’s recommendations and other jury direction reforms.”