Juror impropriety but swifter justice

Courts
The impingement of modern technology on trial by jury remains under close scrutiny this year.


Writing in The Court of Appeal’s (Criminal Division) Annual Report 2011-12, Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, noted an increase in the number of cases where allegations of juror misuse of technology have featured in the grounds of appeal.

“This is a matter that will require close attention over the coming year to ensure the continuing integrity of the jury system,” said the LCJ. “The Court is deeply indebted to the Criminal Cases Review Commission for all aspects of their assistance, not least the way in which they carry out investigations into allegations of jury misconduct,” he added.

Statistics showed a six per cent increase in the total number of applications compared with the previous year (7,442 in 2011/12 compared with 6,972 in 2010/11). On average – taken over a three year period – 11 per cent of conviction applications and 25 per cent of sentence applications received are successful.

The report, published in December last year, also revealed a swifter pace of justice. Appeals for the court year 2011/12 were heard more quickly than in previous years: 7.8 months for conviction cases where leave to appeal was granted or the case referred to the full court (compared with 9.3 months in 2010/11) and 4.5 months for sentence cases (compared with 4.6 months in 2010/11).

The Attorney General referred 98 potentially unduly lenient sentences pursuant to section 36 of the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (compared with 102 cases in 2010/11). Of those cases dealt with by the full court, 73 resulted in an increase in sentence.

The court also received 97 confiscation cases (compared to 102 cases in 2010/11). It received 33 prosecution appeals under section 58 Criminal Justice Act 2003 (compared to 28 in 2010/11); one application under part 10 Criminal Justice Act 2003 for retrial for serious offences (‘double jeopardy’) and nine interlocutory applications (compared to 16 in 2010/11).

Positive use of technology within the courts was highlighted in the report; namely digital recording equipment for faster transcription and increased use of video-link facilities, with 128 successful video-links to prisons last year. Counsel and two witnesses have also appeared from remote locations via video-link.

Thousands more appearances by video-link are projected this year as part of the Government’s “quick effective justice” regime. Justice and Policing Minister Damian Green announced last month that video technology will be rolled out to 13 new areas: Avon and Somerset, Cambridgeshire, Sussex, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Dorset, Northamptonshire, Devon and Cornwall, Wiltshire, North Wales, Gwent, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

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