Pupillage applications – should jury trials be abolished

There are many successful jurisdictions that do not use trial by jury and have a relatively low crime rate, such as Cyprus, which actually has the lowest crime rate. The empirical evidence illustrating that jury trials reduce the crime rate is very unreliable, and the reduction could be due to a number of factors that have nothing to do with trial by jury at all, such as social conditions, the housing situation, the number of immigrants and employment security. Trial by jury is very expensive, and the democratic element could be achieved by lesser measures, such as using lay members to assist judges as currently practised in mental health tribunals. However, even that could be confusing for the system, as members of the public are not conversant in legal language and evidence and often ask questions according to their personal preferences. Furthermore, in some countries, jury trials are available in any case that carries criminal responsibility, such as complex criminal frauds and cartels, notably in the US. It is well documented in the literature that members of the public cannot follow complex economic evidence which could only obscure the proceedings. Even in simple criminal cases, juries could be subjected to the manipulation of lawyers. Criminal lawyers per se are the least well-paid professionals in law. For this reason, they have low ethical standards and, rather than appealing to the technicalities of the evidence, they identify with juries and stress points that are more interesting to them. They use any gimmick to attract the attention of the jury and, in due course, persuade them. For this reason, jury trials could be a reason why candidates for criminal jobs with higher qualifications could be discriminated against, in favour of those with more approachable and ‘trendy’ personalities. Jury trials can result in lengthier proceedings as, even if we accept that lawyers can only try to be helpful, they need to spend more time explaining the finer points of the evidence to juries. As a result, scarce court resources might not be spent adequately, and there might be a higher caseload. It could be argued that acquittals are not so bad for the system, while wrongful convictions are most harmful. However, it is open to the judge, and not the jury, to withdraw the case from the jury and direct the jury to acquit, so the judge has the ultimate voice. Therefore, it is argued that juries do not reduce wrongful convictions by any rate, but on the other hand, they produce acquittals in situations when there is sufficient evidence for conviction. This can be very costly for the system as it can encourage reoffending, the reduction of which is one of the core principles of the system. It is argued that jury trials do not reduce this in any respect but, on the contrary, distort it, so it is not visible in the statistics. This could be the ultimate reason why there are fewer crimes in countries without jury trials. There are simply more acquittals due to the deficiencies in the jury system.