Before the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015: Juror Punishment in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century England
47 Pages Posted: 26 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 21, 2015
The Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 has created several new offences regarding juror misconduct. While this legislation has been passed in response to jurors accessing improper ‘evidence’ online, it is wrong to treat juror misconduct as a new problem. The most famous case on this topic (Bushell’s Case) did not completely prohibit juror punishment, but the rhetorical force of the decision was such that penal practices have until recently been overlooked in the academic literature. This article argues that assessing the new offences is greatly helped by understanding how juror misconduct has been responded to in the past. Drawing on the language of Bushell’s Case itself, as well as new archival research, it argues that previous practices of juror punishment have largely depended on whether particular instances of misconduct related to the juror’s ‘ministerial’ or ‘judicial’ functions; and that ‘judicial’ offences (those relating to verdict formation) have been much less likely to be punished. Rather, such offences have tended to be managed away. If today’s judges continue acting in this way, the new offences are unlikely to be resorted to very often, with the judiciary being much more likely to focus on techniques for avoiding misconduct in the first place.
Keywords: Juries, Contempt, Juror Misconduct, Juror Punishment, Legal History
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