In theory all jury systems (which have existed for almost 800 years) are fair and just. The jury system originated in England and has so far failed in cases (all too common) when defendants are wrongfully prosecuted or convicted of crimes which they did not commit. In societies without a jury system, panels of judges act as decision makers. They weigh the evidence and apply the law. In the court system, criminal law is interpreted by a jury who are seen as expressing the sense of justice of ordinary men and women. Juries date back to the Middle Ages in England, and while membership, role, and importance have changed throughout the ages, they were part of the system of England’s Common Law. The purpose of the jury system was to ensure the civil rights of the ordinary citizen. It is important to remember that at the time, ordinary people had few rights.
I believe that the jury system is an unfair system due to the limitations which are included during jury selection. Many professionals and groups of people are exempt from jury service: police or anyone dealing with the law (law student, lawyer, judges, assessors), anyone dealing in medicine (doctors, nurses), small or large business owners Pregnant women or women in general can claim special considerations, along with; teachers, accountants, ministers of religion, or generally anyone with a professional/education. So due to this, people who serve on a jury can be unemployed or part of a less educated and informed strata of society.
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Due to such limitations within the jury selection process, it is hardly said to be a fair and just system. In Europe, defendants are always tried by judges and assessors which I believe to be a much fairer way in deciding the innocence or guilt of a person. Assessors are legally qualified magistrates, with long experience in presiding over their own courts. When sitting in the superior court as assessors they are not mere advisors, but an integral part of the court. They have the same right as the judge to question the witnesses. Legal issues which are decided exclusively by the judge or panel of judges are evaluated prior to this decision by the assessors together with the judges, deliberating and voting with equal status. Decisions under this system seem much fairer and more reliable than under the jury system as it exists today. The assessors fully understand the legal issues, and are familiar with the rules of evidence and criminal procedures. They are trained, and have spent many years listening to witnesses and defendants. Hence, they have more experience in decision-making and whether or not a witness is telling the truth, than a person serving for the first time on a jury.
There are also many other advantages to this system. The lengthy procedure of selecting a jury is avoided; trials are held more quickly because lawyers know the assessors and understand the issues and legal talk. If the assessors are presented with evidence or information which is inadmissible, there would be no need to abort the trial, due to them being accustomed to the need to disregard such evidence.
A further disadvantage of juries is the influence which the media has upon jurors. As stated earlier throughout this essay, most jurors appear to be low skilled workers or unemployed. The social theorist Marx would suggest ‘they belong to the lower (proletariat) class of society’, which may result in clan bias within the court room (a lower class member in society sits in a jury to decide the fate of and upper class member who they might resent and find guilty unfairly).
It may even mean that the jury may empathize with a person of their own class and find them not guilty when they clearly are guilty. That brings into question the fairness and justice which the jury system in today’s society can deliver.
... but it is not without problems. The 12-person Jury system has good intent but has definite faults and should be ... motivation is to win rather than seek justice. The jury system has its problems and they can be solved in ... They will be affected by biased information before the trial and sometimes accept it as fact and become biased ... law and based on nothing but the presented evidence and actual proof. ...
If a system along similar lines such as in the European system of justice was adopted in Australia, various aspects could be changed to suit Australian views. The number of assessors could be increased, or would be varied according to the seriousness of a case or the level of technical evidence presented. Also in appropriate cases, the assessors could be experts in other fields, such as accountants in cases of corporate fraud or medical practitioners in cases involving complex medical evidence. There are many possibilities which deserve serious considerations in regard to Australia’s jury system. The jury system is a legacy of England’s distant past. It was a vast improvement on trial by ordeal and trial by battle, but it is time the Australian legal system took a step forward to ensure defendants have the best chance of a fair and just trial. It is my belief that the jury system within Australia should be dispersed with and a new system adopted similar to that in Europe.