NHS employees do not often come face to face with a jury, but you might if faced with a difficult inquest hearing or a serious criminal matter.
A recent case has focused on the role and responsibility of the jury. The collective responsibility of the jury is not confined to the verdict but begins as soon as the jury is sworn. It places an obligation on each juror to ensure the conduct of all members is consistent with the jury oath and that the directions of the trial judge about the discharge of their responsibilities are followed.
This was the judgment of Lord Judge CJ in the Court of Appeal, Criminal Division when deciding the joined appeals of R v Thompson; R v Crawford; R v Gomulu; R v Allen; R v Blake and R v Kasunga against their convictions claiming jury irregularity.
The general rule is that legal inquiries into jury deliberation are prohibited except for a couple of technical exceptions.
It is expected that where there is any irregularity this will be addressed and remedied during the trial itself. Only in exceptional cases will the court examine jury deliberations after the verdict and even then are very reluctant to question their validity, which is demonstrated by the fact that all but one of these cases were dismissed.
The material sent to potential jurors before trial and the directions commonly given by judges at trial were examined and although they were found to be neither “unfair or deficient” the judge believed the guidance could be strengthened in the following ways:
- a full and comprehensive explanation of collective responsibility be included when giving a general introduction to the jury;
- it be made clear that any irregularity be brought to the attention of the trial judge immediately and not after the verdict;
- specific guidance be given about the use of the internet which makes clear that in order to preserve fair conduct of trial the internet must not be used to either research or discuss the case; and
- where written directions are given to the jury they should be discussed with counsel first and a copy kept on the court file; however, it remains a matter for the judge as to whether they may be helpful and are not a requirement.