The Role of Directed Verdicts in the Criminal Trial
Monash University - Faculty of Law
(2012) 21 Journal of Judicial Administration 146-167
Monash University Faculty of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2012/20
In Australia, the right to a trial by jury is central to preserving the liberty of an accused against oppression and injustice. A right that is typically retained for serious criminal offences, it is accorded protection at a federal level through the Australian Constitution. Where the right to a trial by jury is exercised, the jury acts as the trier of fact, and the judge acts as the trier of law. However, in limited circumstances, a trial judge is permitted to direct the jury to return a particular verdict. Although such a direction undermines the clear demarcation of judge and jury, it is currently permissible under Australian law. This article discusses the purpose, regularity and practice of judicially directed verdicts in Australia. It primarily draws upon recent developments in the United Kingdom and Canada for the purpose of considering relevant policy arguments and reform options. It is suggested that judicially directed convictions should be abolished in Australia, whereas judicially directed acquittals should be appropriately reformed, in order to establish an appropriate framework for directed verdicts.
Keywords: juries, directed verdicts, criminal trials
JEL Classification: K14
Date posted: May 24, 2013
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