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Jury Trials

Australian Criminal Law Group are Sydney’s best criminal lawyers for jury trials. 

The jury trial is the foundation of the criminal justice system. People charged with serious criminal offences are entitled to have their guilt or innocence determined by the judgement of their peers. The men and women who decide their fate are known as a jury. 

The importance of trial by jury was expressed in passionate terms by Deane J in his judgment in Kingswell in 1985: 

The guarantee of section 80 of the Constitution was not the mere expression of some casual preference for one form of criminal trial. It reflected a deep-seated conviction of free men and women about the way in which justice should be administered in criminal cases. That conviction finds a solid basis in an understanding of the history and functioning of the common law as a bulwark against the tyranny of arbitrary punishment. 

The rules relating to jury service in New South Wales are primarily regulated by the Jury Act 1977.  Below is information about the jury trials.   

If you need further representation or advice, make a website enquiry here or call our free 24/7 hotline on (02) 8815 8167.  Australian Criminal Law Group are based in SydneyParramatta and Blacktown and represent clients from across the broader Sydney area.  

Who makes up a jury? 

Every person who is enrolled to vote in NSW is qualified and liable to serve as a juror.  There are some exclusions which are mentioned below.   These may be based on profession, disability, sickness or undue hardships as a result of serving jury duty.  

Juries are made of 12 people selected at random from the electoral roll.   

In NSW there is a requirement for a unanimous jury of 12.  These were amended in 2006 to allow for a majority verdict of 11 jurors in criminal trials in certain circumstances.   Given the need for a majority verdict of 11 jurors, where there is a case that are expected to last more than 3 months, a judge may choose to add more people to the jury, with a maximum of 3 additional jurors, in order to ensure there are enough jurors for the verdict to be made.  

How is the Jury selected? 

Once you have been called to court for jury service, you will then be selected at random to sit on a jury.  

Lawyers have an opportunity to veto potential jurors by using what’s called a “peremptory challenge”.  This is to ensure a fair trial for all.  

As such, potential jurors may be vetoed for reasons such as the way they look, their gender or nationality, or the persons profession amongst other reasons.  The reasoning is generally based on the lawyer’s experience or gut feel about the juror and any potential bias they may hold which would cause the trial to become unfair to their clients in some way. 

What is the role of a jury? 

Juries determine most criminal cases in the District and Supreme Courts.   

Juries are typically only used for serious criminal matters or ‘indictable offences’, however they are also, to a lesser degree, used in some civil cases.  They are not normally used for less serious criminal offences.   

The juror’s role is to hear evidence that is presented to them in court and apply the law as directed by the judge. Jurors decide on the evidence and the law if a person is guilty or not guilty of a crime they have been charged. The jury’s decision is called a verdict. 

The Jury plays a very important role in the Australian judicial system by maintaining a perception of fairness.   The jury is designed to represent the broader population rather than be reliant on one person and any bias or prejudice they may have.   Without a jury, the decision about a person’s guilt would be solely that of the judge.  A single person who is more likely to be swayed by their personal bias.    

In Australia, the role of the jury is to decide on the accused guilt.  They do not decide on the penalty that should be applied should the accused be found guilty. 

What is a verdict? 

For hundreds of years, a person tried before a jury could only be found guilty of the offence if the verdict was the unanimous decision of the 12 jurors. 

In 2006, majority verdicts were introduced in NSW following the prevalence of “hung juries” in criminal trials in NSW.  A majority verdict is a verdict agreed to by 11 jurors rather than the 12 persons constituting the jury. A judge can allow for a majority verdict if unanimous verdict cannot be reached after a reasonable time of the jury deliberating. 

A verdict made by a jury cannot be appealed unless there was a serious error in the law or a serious misdirection by the trial judge.  

What is a hung jury? 

A hung jury occurs where the members of the jury cannot agree whether a person is guilty or not guilty. 

In the case of a hung jury, there can be a retrial, or the Crown may terminate the criminal proceedings. If there have been two trials with hung juries, it is only in “exceptional circumstances” that there will be a third re-trial. 

Can I get out of jury duty? 

If you are selected for jury duty you can request that you not be selected on the jury. Common reasons include: 

  • Undue Hardship:  If the jury service would cause undue hardship or serious inconvenience to you, your family or the public.  For example, this may include prebooked holiday commitments, exams or study commitments.   
  • Disability or Sickness:  Disability or sickness would render the person incapable of effectively serving as a juror or without reasonable accommodation to do so. 
  • Conflict of Interest:  Conflict of interest or some other knowledge, acquaintance or friendship that may result in a lack of impartiality as a juror. 
  • Other:  If there is another reason that would impact your ability to prefer duties as a juror 

Who are not qualified for jury service? 

The Jury Act 1977 includes a list of people are that not qualified to serve jury duty or those that are ineligible to do so.   They also list some reasons as to why you may be able to request to be excluded from jury duty.   You can find these listed in the NSW Juror summons brochure here  https://juror.nsw.gov.au/brochure/summons 

  • If you have served any part of a sentence of imprisonment (excluding imprisonment for failure to pay a fine) in NSW or anywhere else in the last ten years. 
  • If you have been found guilty of an offence and detained in a detention center or other institution for juvenile offenders (excluding for failure to pay a fine) in NSW or anywhere else in the last three years. 
  • You are currently bound by a court order made in NSW or elsewhere that relates to a criminal charge or conviction including; a parole order, a community service order, an apprehended violence order or an order disqualifying you from driving a motor vehicle. 
  • You are currently bound by a court order made in NSW or elsewhere that relates to a criminal charge or conviction including; a good behaviour bond or an order remanding you in custody or granting bail pending trial or sentence. 

Who is ineligible to serve jury duty? 

You may also be ineligible to serve based on your job, health or ability to understand the proceedings.  These people include; 

  • Employed by public sector, judicial system, law enforcement etc; 
  • If you are employed or engaged (except on a casual or voluntary basis) in the public sector employees in areas of law enforcement, criminal investigation, the provision of legal services in criminal cases, the administration of justice or penal administration 
  • judicial officers, including those previously employed in these roles (includes judges, magistrates and coroners, Crown Prosecutors, Director of Public Prosecutions) 
  • Australian lawyers (whether practicing or not) 
  • members of parliament, parliamentary officers and staff
  • Those who are unable to read or understand English
  • Those who are unable to discharge the duties of a juror due to sickness, infirmity or disability. 

Who can be excused from jury duty? 

If you are called for jury duty, you have to attend.  There are only very select few people who can be excused from jury duty.  They are  

  • Medical Profesionals:  practising dentists, pharmacists and medical practitioners 
  • Carers:  Carers of children, and carers of ill or disabled people 
  • Distance:  People who live further than 65Km from the courthouse. 

What does jury duty pay? 

If the trial lasts for between one and 10 days, jurors are paid $106.30 per day. If the trial lasts more than 11 days, jurors are paid $247.40 for each day thereafter. However, if jurors are unemployed, they continue to receive $106.30 per day. 

Australian Criminal Law Group Jury Trial Lawyers 

Australian Criminal Law Group have a team of high profile criminal lawyers who are experts at jury trials.  They consistently get the best results in court for their clientss.  

Australia Criminal Law Group are based in SydneyParramatta and Blacktown and represent clients in all courts and from across the broader Sydney area. 

If you need the best legal representation, get in touch with our criminal law team on (02) 8815 8167, send us a website enquiry or email us at info@aclawgroup.com.au. 

 

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Australian Criminal Law Group and its clients make every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information provided on its web pages. However, given the laws in NSW and Australia are continually changing, Australian Criminal Law Group make no warranties or representations as to its accuracy. 

 

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