The Individual and the Court System Essay

This essay has a total of 1107 words and 6 pages.

The Individual and the Court System

The Individual and the Court System - Essay

The Australian jury trial system is said to have many merits and defects, and as Winston
Churchill once said about democracy the Australian jury system is "not a perfect system,
it is just the least worst of all the others". In analysing the system several major
strengths can be seen, but many weaknesses can be found also. It is a matter of great
interest in the general community and many people have written on it, ranging from past
jurors to university students.

Some of the main strengths seen are that juries have established philosophical and
historical importance within our community. The jury system is a centuries old tradition
of our legal system and in the eyes of the community it remains a vital expression of the
importance of justice being adjudicated upon by ordinary citizens. Without a jury system,
it is claimed that the liberties of individuals would be adjudicated upon by
unrepresentative experts who would further remove the workings of the legal system from
those it is meant to serve in the wider community. It is also seen that the random
selections of jury members from a cross section of society ensures that the law remains
adjudicated upon by a representative sample of society who can reflect the values of the
community they serve. In recent years it is argued that juries have effectively expressed
community attitudes on diverse matters including passive smoking, reckless drunk driving
and self defense claims in murder trials by women who had suffered repeated physical and
mental abuse.

The existence of a jury means that lawyers must ensure that their cases are presented in a
way that enables community understanding of important issues and principles. Without a
jury it is argued the evolution of the principles of our legal system would become
increasingly complex and removed from the understanding of the community. In general the
community is more likely to have confidence in the decision of a representative group of
that community than one made by a single judge or a court appointed panel of experts.

If the system was removed it would open the adjudication process of civil and criminal
trials up to the possibility of political or monetary influence - the jury is a vital
institution for ensuring that 'open courts' remain truly open to public scrutiny. It is
also argued by some that 'in diversity there is strength' , this means that the jury
system still provides the best opportunity for diverse opinions, attitudes and perceptions
to be brought to bear on a particular matter. The fact that community confidence in our
judicial system is dependent on the secret and anonymous deliberations of members of the
community is important and jury verdicts are preferred over the decisions of appointed
judges or experts. In particular, the requirement for a unanimous verdict in a murder
trial reinforces the importance of the presumption of innocence for those who face a
serious loss if liberty within our community.

Some defenders of the system recognise that there is no perfect system of judicial fact
finding but the jury system still remains the 'least worst' of suggested methods of fact

On the other hand the jury system has several major flaws that need to be addressed, one
of these is that the philosophical and historical arguments for use of the jury system are
no longer as important. For example centuries ago juries could be seen as providing
safeguards against arbitrary decision making and serving to protect the liberties of
accused. However, in modern societies sufficient safeguards exist within the judicial
system and these together with improvements in the education levels of our community mean
that juries are not required as bulwarks against the erosion of precious liberties. Also
the random selection of jury members provides the courts with panels of persons
unqualified and unable to discharge their duties effectively. The categories of those
ineligible to serve or who can be excused as of right or upon request are far too broad.
Rather that have juries that represent a cross-section of society, juries are, in fact,
selected from an overly narrow band of our community.

The extensive range of exemptions from jury service had increased the likelihood that
juries are unable to adequately or intelligently assess courtroom evidence, legal
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