Document Type Journal Article
Lincoln, Robyn and Lindner, Deb (2004), Judging juries. The National Legal Eagle, April 2004, pp. 8-10.
Copyright ©The Law Society of New South Wales, 2004.
Reproduced with permission.
There have been recent calls for major changes to our jury system in a number of states. Such calls for reform are not new, and tend to occur whenever there has been a high-profile controversial jury decision. One recent example was the trial of Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge in Queensland on charges of electoral fraud. The jury in that case handed down a guilty verdict and the pair was sentenced to three years imprisonment. However, within two months the Queensland Court of Appeal overturned that verdict, quashed the original convictions and the pair were set free. The appellate judges, while not directly critical of the jury’s decision, did note that it was a complex case with much complicated evidence presented. As a result, politicians and some legal experts have been calling for changes to the jury system in trials where there is this kind of complex evidence presented. It is thought that such evidence may be beyond the abilities of ordinary men and women to decipher and that the jury’s role would be better performed by a panel of judges in such cases. This challenges the role that juries have held in the justice system for centuries.