Claire Trevett at NZ Herald reports:
The Law Commission has proposed ditching trials by a full jury of 12 in favour of trials by a judge and two semi-professional jurors to allow more evidence, such as previous convictions, to be used.
In a consultation paper on alternative trial systems, the commission sets out a range of proposals for change, especially in sexual offending cases.
They include replacing a full jury with a judge alone or a judge with two full-time jurors who would be trained in criminal procedure.
The paper said trials heard by either a judge alone or a judge with two trained jurors would allow many of the rules of evidence to be dispensed with, because a smaller pool of fixed-term jurors could be trained in criminal trial procedures in a way normal jurors could not.
Research showed jurors had “an array of myths and prejudices” that resulted in laws restricting the use of evidence which could be prejudicial, but professional jurors could be taught to put their own prejudices aside.
An example of the evidence that could be included under such a system was previous convictions of defendants. In August 2007, a law change allowed previous convictions to be used in some cases, but only when the strength of the evidence outweighed any risk of prejudice.
I think previous convictions should be known (partly because in today’s world, such information is difficult to hide, so better to provide it in context).
The idea of semi-professional jurors is worth considering. With so many people avoiding jury service, jurors are no longer representative of the population anyway. Training jurors up in criminal trial procedures has some merit.
I’ve not read the full paper, but will add it to my backlog of stuff to read.
You can read the paper and respond to it at this site.Tags: juries