'The Terror of Their Lives': Irish Jurors’ Experiences
Law and History Review, 2011
45 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2011
Date Written: June 30, 2010
The Irish jury system (and the wider justice system) in the nineteenth century operated under significant pressures, and Irish juries were often portrayed as unreliable, ignorant, perverse and easily manipulated. At times of political turmoil it could prove difficult even to empanel a jury, and during certain fraught periods attempts were made to do away with jury trial in certain types of sensitive criminal cases. In this article an attempt is made to look at those men who were called upon to sit on juries in civil and criminal cases. Using a variety of previously unsynthesised sources, it paints a picture of jury service as an inconvenient, uncomfortable, overly-frequent, and at times, dangerous activity. Although not an area to which much attention has hitherto been devoted, this article aids our understanding of how the system of trial by jury – and, by extension, the system of justice – operated in Ireland during the difficult years of the long nineteenth century. Because Ireland represented one of the first adventures of the common law, the problems experienced with jury trials in Ireland were often forerunners of problems later experienced in other common law jurisdictions. This article may help to clarify the reasons behind certain jury developments in countries other than Ireland, and stimulate further research and debate on the wider issues of transplanting legal systems and institutions.
Keywords: Irish Jury, Commonwealth Jury, Trial, Juror Payment, Juror Accommodation, Juror Intimidation, Legal History, Criminal Procedure
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