Jury in United Kingdom

Jury Meaning

Jury in Scottish Law

The group of men and women who listen to the evidence and make decisions about the facts in a case. In criminal cases, there are 15 jurors, with 12 in civil cases.

Definition of Jury Qualifications

To be eligible for jury service there are certain criteria that need to be fulfilled.

Grand Jury

Whether there has or has not been a preliminary inquiry before a magistrate, no person can be tried for any of the graver crimes, treason or felony, except upon indictment found by a grand jury of the county or place where the offence is said to have been committed or is by statute made cognizable. In olden days, and even now in theory, the grand jury inquire of their own knowledge, by the oath of good and lawful men of the neighbourhood, into the crime of the county, but in practice the charges against the accused persons are always first submitted to the proper officer of the court. The grand jurors are instructed as to their inquisition by a charge from the judge, as regards the indictments concerning which they are called upon to enquire whether there is a prima facie case to send them for trial to the petty jury. The 460 grand jury must consist of not less than twelve, nor more than twenty-three, good and lawful men of the county. But any person who prefers an indictment is entitled to have it presented to the grand jury. Officers of the court lay the indictments before the grand jury. The charges are then called bills, and if the grand jury considers that there is no prima facie case the foreman endorses the bill with the words “no true bill,” and it is then presented to the judge. The jury are then said to have ignored the bill, and if the person charged is in custody he is released, but is liable to be indicted again on better evidence.

As a means of constitutional protection in times of monarchical aggression this practice had no doubt a great value, but in the present day, when few offenders are tried without a preliminary inquiry by justices, the functions of a grand jury are of secondary importance, and the jurors’ time is perhaps needlessly occupied. The institution of the grand jury prevented the crown in the days of its great power from removing a person whom it wished to get rid of from among his neighbours, and placing him on trial in a strange place where the influence of the crown was greater. This is still true to a certain extent, as great injustice may be caused to a man by removing him from his neighbours and trying him at a distance from his friends, and from the witnesses whom he might call for his defence. In Ireland, for instance, the greatest injustice might be done by removing an Orangeman from Belfast and trying him in a Roman Catholic county or vice versa. But it has its evils where the area from which the jurors are drawn is small, such as a town of a few thousand inhabitants. In that case a man charged, say, with fraud, may be protected by his friends from being properly punished for that fraud. But where justice requires, an order may be made for the trial of the offence in another county or at the central criminal court.

In many colonies the Scottish system has been adopted, by which the ordinary form of accusation is by indictment framed by the public prosecutor, and a grand jury is only impannelled in cases where an individual claims to prosecute an offence as to which the public officials decline to proceed. In England criminal informations by the attorney-general, or by leave of the court without the intervention of a grand jury, are permitted in cases of misdemeanour, but are now rarely preferred.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)

Coroner’s courts

If a coroner’s jury, on inquiring into any sudden death, finds that murder or manslaughter has been committed, that finding has the same effect as an indictment by a grand jury, and the man charged may be tried by the petty jury accordingly. The law and procedure of the coroner’s courts are now regulated by the Coroners Act 1887. When there is a dead body of a person lying within the area of his jurisdiction, and there is reasonable cause to suspect that such person died a violent or unnatural death, or a sudden death of which the cause is unknown, or has died in prison, the coroner is entitled to hold an inquest, and if the verdict or inquisition finds murder or manslaughter, it is followed by trial in the same way as if the person accused had been indicted.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)

Trial by jury

When an indictment is found by the grand jury (twelve at least must concur) the person charged is brought before the court, the indictment is read to him, he is asked whether he is guilty or not guilty. If he pleads guilty he is then sentenced by the court; if he pleads not guilty, a petty jury of twelve is formed from the panel or list of jurors who have been summoned by the sheriff to attend the court. He is tried by these jurors in open court. The common law method of trial of crimes by a jury of twelve, native to English law, has been in modern times transplanted to European countries. It was not the original form of trial, for it was preceded by wager of battle (which was not finally abolished till 1819); and by ordeal, which was suppressed as to criminal trials in 1219 in consequence of the decree of the Lateran Council (1216).

The first was allowed only on an appeal by an individual accuser; the second was resorted to on an accusation by public fame, which the accused was allowed to meet by submitting to the ordeal. It was after 1219 that trial by the jury of twelve (known as trial in pais) began to develop. At the outset the accused used to be asked how he would be tried, and could not be directly compelled to plead to the charge or to accept trial by a jury; which led to the indirect pressure known as the peine forte et dure, which fell into disuse after the Revolution and was formally abolished in 1772. But it was not until 1827 that refusal to plead was treated as a plea of not guilty, entailing a trial by a jury, and some old-fashioned officials still ask the old question “How will you be tried?” to which the old answer was “By God and my country.”

The original trial jury or inquest certainly acted on its own knowledge or inquiries without necessarily having evidence laid before it in court. The impartiality of the jurors was to some extent secured by the power of challenge. The exact time when the jury came into its present position is difficult accurately to define. On the trial before the petty jury the procedure and the rules of evidence differ in very few points from an ordinary civil case. The proceedings as already stated are accusatory. The prosecutor must begin to prove his case. Confessions (which are the object sought by French procedure) are regarded with some suspicion, and admissions alleged to have been made by the accused are not admitted unless it is clear that they were not extracted by inducements of a temporal nature held out by persons in authority over him. During the spring assizes of 1877 a prisoner was charged with having committed a murder twenty years before, and the counsel for the prosecution, with the consent of the judge, withdrew from the case because the only evidence, besides the prisoner’s own confession, was that of persons who either had never known him personally or could not identify him.

The accused may not be interrogated by the judge or the prosecuting counsel unless he consents to be sworn as a witness. In this respect the contrast between a criminal trial in England and a criminal trial in France is very striking. The interrogation and browbeating of the prisoner by the judge, consistent as it may be with the inquisitorial theory of their procedure, is strange to English lawyers, accustomed to see in every criminal trial a fair fight between the prisoner and the prosecution, and not a contest between the judge and the prisoner. The accused may, if he choose, be defended by counsel, and if poor may get legal aid at the public expense if the court certify for it. He is entitled to cross-examine the witnesses for the prosecution and to call witnesses in his defence. At the conclusion of the evidence and speeches the judge sums up to the jury both as to the facts and the law, and the jury by their verdict acquit or convict. Immediate discharge follows on acquittal; sentence by the judge on conviction.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica

Meaning of Jury

The following is an old definition of Jury [1]: A body of persons sworn, or affirmed, to decide a matter of fact in controversy in a court of justice. A body of men composed of the peers or equals of the person whose rights it is selected or summoned to determine; that is, of his neighbors, fellows, associates, persons having the same legal status in society. See Peer. The persons are, individually, jurors or jurymen. The term usually imports a tribunal of twelve mpn presided over by a court hearing the allegations, evidence, and arguments of the parties; a common or petit jury, q, v. But it may import more or less than twelve, as when the reference is to a grand jury, a coroner’s or a sheriff’s jury. The common-law jury of twelve persons has seldom been allowed in courts of special, inferior, or limited jurisdiction, such as police courts, courts of justices of the peace, probate courts, courts of equity, or in reviewing courts. Grand jury. Twenty-four [twenty-three] freeholders returned by the sheriff to each session of the court of oyer and terminer and general jail delivery, to inquire, present, and do all other things commanded them. Having been first instructed in their duties by the judge, they withdraw to hear accusations by bills of indictment, whether there is sufficient causfe to call upon the party to answer before the petit jury. They inquire for the body of the county; and find a bill to be “true ” or ” not true ” by vote of at least twelve members. The institution serves to protect persons from being put to the trouble and expense of a trial upon groundless accusation; constitutes a security against vindicative prosecutions by the government, political partisans, or private enemies. The institution of the grand jury is of very ancient origin. For a long period its powers were not clearly defined; it seems at first to have both accused and tried public offenders. At the time of the settlement of this country, it was an accusing tribunal only, without whose action no person charged with a felony, except in certain special causes, could be put upon trial. In the struggles which arose in England between the powers of the king and the rights of the subject, it often stood as a barrier against persecution in his name. Thus it came to be regarded as an institution by which the subject was rendered secure against oppression from unfounded prosecutions of the crown. In this country, from the popular cliaracter of our institutions, there has seldom been any contest between the government and the citizens which required the existence of the grand jury as a protection against oppressive action of the government. Yet the institution was adopted and is continued from considerations similar to those which give it its chief value in England, and is designed as a means, liot only of bringing to trial persons accused of public offenses upon just grounds, but also as a means of protecting the citizen against unfounded accusation, whether it comes from the government, or is prompted by partisan passion or private enmity. No person shall be required, according to the fundamental law of the country, except in cases mentioned, to answer for any of the higher crimes, unless this body, consisting of not less than sixteen nor more than twenty-three good and lawful men, selected from the body of the district, shall declare, upon careful deliberation, under the solemnity of an oath, that there is good reason for his accusation and trial. While there is now no danger to the citizen from the oppressions of a monarch, or from any form of executive power, it remains true that the grand jury is as valuable as ever in securing individual citizens from an open and public accusation of crime, and from the trouble, expense, and anxiety of a public trial before a probable cause is established by the presentment and indictment of a grand jury. Objection to the qualification of grand jurors, or to the mode of summoning or impanelling them, must be made by a motion to quash, or by a plea in abatement, before pleading in bar. A grand jury is a component part of the court, and is under its general supervision and control. Individual jurors may be punished for contempt consisting in willful misconduct or neglect of duty; but they are independent in their actions in determining questions of fact, and no investigation can ever be made as to how a juror voted, or what opinion he expressed on a matter before him. Investigations before a grand jury must be made in accordance with the well-established rules of evidence, and it must hear the best legal proofs of which the case admits. Whether a witness is an expert must be first deter- mined by the court. Evidence of confessions should not be admitted, except under the direction of the court, or, perhaps, unless the prosecuting officer makes the preliminary inquiries necessary to render such testimony admissible. Since they are sworn ” to inquire and a true presentment make,” they may order the production of other evidence than that adduced by the prosecution, which they believe exists and is within reach. A witness’s testimony before a grand jury is not a confidential communication. It is a high contempt of court for a person voluntarily to communicate with a grand jury with reference to a matter which may come before them. The court is the only proper source from which a grand jury may obtain advice as to a question of law. Courts sometimes permit the district attorney, or his assistant, to go before a grand jury, when requested by the foreman or when necessary for a proper administration of justice. These officers may then assist in examining witnesses; may advise in matters of procedure, according to well-settled practice; may read statutes upon which bills of indictment are founded; but they may not advise as to the sufficiency of evidence. While grand jurors are sworn to secrecy, the later doctrine is that, to prevent justice from being defeated, a member may testify what evidence was given before the body. Local statutes regulate the qualifications, summoning, organization, and duties of grand juries. Common, petit, or traverse jury. Common jury. Originally, a jury summoned to try matters of an ordinary nature. Not for each separate cause, as at first, but consisting of one panel for every cause, of forty-eight to seventy-two jurors, twelve of whose names are drawn for the jury itself. Petit jury. The lesser jury, which passes finally upon the truth of the fact in dispute; a common jury of twelve men. Traverse jury. The jury which passes upon the truth of the facts traversed or denied; a common or petit jury. Mixed jury. A right to which every colored man is entitled is, that in the selection of jurors to pass upon his life, liberty, or property, there shall be no exclusion of his race, and no discrimination against them because of color. This is a different thing from a right to have the jury composed in part of colored men. A mixed jury in a particular case is not essential to the equal protection of the laws. See Citizen, Amendment, XIV. Special or struck jury. Originally, drawn in causes of too great nicety for the discussion of ordinary freeholders, or where the sheriff was suspected of partiality. The sheriff produced his freeholder’s book, and an oflacer took indifferently forty-eight names. From these names each side struck off twelve, and the remaining twenty-four were returned upon the panel, from which a jury of twelve men were selected. Of rare occurrence. The method of selection is regulated by local law, and varies as to details in different jurisdictions. In some States thegury is granted as of course upon application; but generally it must appear that a fair trial cannot be otherwise had, or that the intricacy or importance of the case requires men specially qualified for the service. Trial by jury. A trial by a common-law jury, a body of twelve men. A trial by one’s peers; secured, originally, by Magna Charta. The bulwark of the subject’s liberties. In the time of Henry II, trial by twelve men generally superseded trial by an indefinite number of suitors of court, which was in common use in Saxon times. The very spirit of trial by jury is, that the experience, practical knowledge of affairs, and common sense of jurors may be appealed to, to mediate the inconsistencies of the evidence, and reconcile the extravagances of the opposing theories of the parties. ” In courts at common law. where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall, be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.” This relates to trials in the Federal courts; the States are left to regulate trials in their courts in their own way. The Constitution only secures trials in State courts according to the settled course of judicial proceedings. The right does not extend to cases of equity jurisdiction; as, in claims for damages for alleged infringement of letters-patent. An application for trial by a jury in a patent case by a defendant against whom an injunction is asked may be granted in the discretion of the court; but if the question can be determined more properly by a chancellor, the application should be refused. The constitutions of the several States provide that “trial by jury shall be as heretofore, and the right thereof remain inviolate.” The legislature may withhold trial by jury from new offenses created by statute and unknown to the common law, as in the case of the Sunday Law, and of numerous enactments in the nature of police regulations for preserving the peace; from new jurisdictions created by statute and clothed with no common- law powers, as, in Pennsylvania, in the case of the Justices’ Hundred Dollar Law, and of the authorities that enforce the liability of counties for property destroyed by mobs; from proceedings which, though in common-law courts, are out of the course of the common law, as in motions for summary relief against judgments; and, in equity suits. Proceedings in orphans’ courts, and many in quarter sessions, are other examples. Trial may be denied to municipal corporations. Jn these instances it is no invasion of the rights of the citizen to provide some other mode of trying contested facts, because “heretofore,” that is, at the common law which antedated our constitutions, trial by jury did not exist in such cases. The meaning is that a jury trial is to be preserved in all cases in which it existed prior to the adoption of the constitution. The right is preserved, not extended : it remains “inviolate” – that is, not disturbed or limited, as ample and complete as when the constitution was adopted. The provision is intended to secure a benefit or right to a party to a suit which he may avail himself of or waive at its election; and the legislature may make reasonable laws regulating the mode in which the right shall be enjoyed. The right ” to a, speedy public trial by an impartial jury of the county wherein the offense shall have been committed,” is waived by the accused, when, upon his application, the place of trial is changed to another county. An accused person cannot waive the right unless waiver is expressly authorized. See Waiveb. See Conviction, Summary; Defense,2, Affidavit of. Questions of law are to be determined by the court; questions of fact by the jury. In this regard the authority of each is absolute. The jury should take the law as laid down by the court, and give it full effect; but its application to the facts, and the facts themselves, it is for them to determine. The court may not enter their distinctive province. These are the check and balance which give to trial by jury its value. Where the facte are undisputed, their effect is for the judgment of the court; where different minds may honestly draw different conclusions from the facts, as where care or negligence is to be inferred, the question is for the jury . What is said by the court as to the weight of evidence is advisory, in nowise intended to fetter the exercise of the juror’s independent judgment. With this limitation, it is the right and duty of the court to aid them by recalling the testimony to their recollection, by collecting its details, by suggesting grounds of preference where there is contradiction, by directing their attention to the most important facts, by eliminating the true points of inquiry, by resolving the evidence, however complicated, into its simpler elements, and by showing the bearing of its several parte and their combined effect, stripped of every consideration which might other ivise mislead or confuse them. How this duty shall be performed depends upon the discretion of the judge. Without this aid, chance, mistake, or caprice may determine the result. In civil cases, the jury are to find for the party in whose favor the evidence preponderates. In criminal trials, the accused is entitled to the legal presumption in favor of innocence, which, in doubtful cases, Is always sufficient to turn the scales in his favor. See further Doubt, Reasonable. The jury are no more the judges of the law in a criminal case, upon the plea of not guilty, than they are in a civil case, tried upon the geheral issue. In each case, their verdict, when general, is necessarily compounded of law and fact. In each, they determine the law and the fact. In each, they have the physical power to disregard the law, as laid down by the court. But they have not the moral right to decide the law according to their own notions or pleasure. On the contrary, the most sacred constitutional right of every person accused of a crime is that the jury should respond as to the facts and the court as to the law. It is the duty of the court to instruct the jury as to the law; and it is the duty of the juiy to follow the law, as laid down. This is the only protection of the citizen. If the jury were at liberty to settle the law for themselves, the effect would be, not only that the law itself would be uncertain, from the different views juries might take of it; but, in case of error, there would be no remedy for the injured party; for the court would not have any right to review the law as it had been settled by the jury. Indeed, it would be almost impracticable to ascertain what the law, as settled by the jury, actually was. On the other hand, if the court should err, in laying down the law, remedy may be had by a motion for a new trial or by a writ of error. Every person accused as a criminal has a right to be tried by the fixed law of the land. The jurors have the power to give a general verdict upon the general issue, which includes the question of law, as well as of fact; but when, by pleading, special verdict or demurrer to evidence, the law is separated from the fact, they have no right to decide the law, but must follow it as laid down by the court. The right of a trial by a jury in a criminal case is not more distinctly secured than it is in a civil case. The right exists only in respect to a disputed fact. Where the facts constituting guilt are undisputed, it is the duty of the court to direct a verdict of guilty. The jury judge of the law in criminal cases. Having the power, they have a right to give a verdict contrary to the instructions of the court upon the law. The court may present the considerations which should induce them to follow its instructions, but should not give a binding instruction which it would be powerless to enforce by granting a new trial if the instruction should be disregarded. This power is one of the most valuable securities guaranteed by the Bi of Rights. Judges may be partial and oppressivi from political or personal prejudice. By reason of the experience of the judge the jui will doubtless highly regard his opinion, and inclin to adopt it rather than a contrary view presented be counsel; but his instructions are only advisory, the jury are not bound to follow them; and hence the d tendant may present views and interpretations of the law differing from those stated by the court. The argument must of course be confined to the issue, ar be presented in a respectful manner; and the con may restrict the time within reasonable bounds. It is not improper to instruct the jury that if tht can saty upon their oaths that they know the law be ter than the court itself, they have a right to do s but that before saying this it is their duty to refle whether from their study and experience they are be ter qualified to judge of the law than the court. The reasons for constituting the jury the ” judg of the law and the fact ” in criminal cases, seem have been : 1. Having the power to pass upon the la by a general verdict, their right to do so necessari followed. 2. Up to the time of the prosecutions England for seditious utterances, the right, while a mitted to exist, was seldom exercised, but the com tion of affairs in the time of Judge Jeffreys caused vigorous assertion of the right. In capital cases, the jurors are kept together uni discharged; but pending a trial for a misdemeant they may be permitted by the court, without the knowledge of the defendant, to separate, witho vitiating their verdict. Facts found by a jurj’ may be revised by a motii for a new trial, or by a writ of error. Jury box. The space set apart for a jui while engaged in a trial. A revolving barrel is a ” box,” within the requii meat of a statute that names of jurors, before bei drawn, shall be placed in a box and shaken togethe Jury commissioner. An officer wl provides panels of jurors for the successi terms of a court.Jury list. A paper containing the names, occupations, and place of residence of a panel of jurors. Jury process. The writ by which a jury is summoned. Jury “wheel. A revolving receptacle in which are placed, at designated intervals, the names of persons qualified for service as jurors, and from which panels are drawn. See further Array; Call, 3; Challenge, 4; Charge, 2 (2, c); Contempt, 1; Codntry, 2; Elisor; Embracery; Foreman; Impartial; Indifferent; Indictment; Laboa, 2; Mediatas Linguae; Opinion. 2; Pack; Panel; Privilege, 2; Process, ,1, Due; Punished, Twice; Qualify, 2; Eight, 2, Civil Eight’s Acts; Stand Aside; Tales; Trior; Vagrant; Venire; Verdict; Vicinage; View; Waiver; Withdrawing.


Notes and References

  1. Concept of Jury provided by the Anderson Dictionary of Law (1889)



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