English and Irish Jury Laws: A Growing Divergence 1825-1833

Niamh Howlin

Queen's University Belfast

March 30, 2008

THE LAWS AND OTHER LEGALITIES OF IRELAND, 1689-1850, Michael Brown, ed., Ashgate, 2011

Although the Irish system of trial by jury had its roots in the laws of England, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries saw the beginnings of a divergence between the jury systems of the two countries. By the second half of the nineteenth century the differences had become even more pronounced, and the effect that this had during the turmoil of the 1870s and 1880s has been documented elsewhere. There were various reasons why Irish jury trials operated differently to those in England; some relating to procedural variations which evolved over time; some with their roots in the specific social and political make-up of the Irish population; some stemming directly from a failure to legislate in the early years of the nineteenth century, and some arising out of differences between English and Irish juries legislation when this was eventually enacted in both countries. There were also numerous ways in which the differences between jury trials in the two countries manifested themselves. The social, political and religious make-up of Irish society in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries meant that there was a comparatively small pool of potential jurors. In order to ensure that there were enough suitable jurors to try all civil and criminal cases, it was found necessary to provide for a lower property qualification for Irish jurors than pertained in England. The categories of persons exempted or disqualified from jury service differed in both countries. In addition, crown prosecutors in Ireland made use of their right to order jurors to ‘stand aside’, and all parties made extensive use of their right to challenge jurors where this was deemed necessary. The cumulative effect of these factors was that Irish juries had their own distinctive composition. There also arose, as a result, several notable differences in relation to certain aspects of jury procedure in the two countries. These seemingly innocuous procedural discrepancies could have a significant impact on the trial itself, and on the justice system as a whole. This paper examines the perceived need to legislate for jury reform in the early nineteenth century, and considers why attempts to introduce Irish jury legislation in the wake of the English Act of 1825 initially failed. Finally, it will outline the role of the Irish bench in shaping the Juries (Ireland) Act 1833.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 16

Keywords: Jury, Jurors, Juries, Ireland, Special Jury, O'Connell, Robert Peel, Civil Procedure

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Date posted: July 22, 2011  

Suggested Citation

Howlin, Niamh, English and Irish Jury Laws: A Growing Divergence 1825-1833 (March 30, 2008). THE LAWS AND OTHER LEGALITIES OF IRELAND, 1689-1850, Michael Brown, ed., Ashgate, 2011. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1891986

Contact Information

Niamh Howlin (Contact Author)
Queen's University Belfast ( email )
School of Law
Belfast BT7 1NN, BT7 1NN
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