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Last Updated: Saturday, 22 January, 2005, 09:01 GMT
Jury deliberations may be studied
Court generic
Jury room discussions are currently secret
Deliberations of juries in criminal trials could be studied, under plans being considered by the government.

Research could look at the key factors behind a verdict and whether there was any evidence of gender or racial bias.

The Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer, has published a consultation paper on the issue, designed to identify ways to investigate claims of jury impropriety.

The consultation also aims to develop ideas for improving support for jurors.

Jury discussions are currently secret.

BBC home affairs correspondent Danny Shaw reported that Lord Falconer said the government had an "open mind" on the issue.

The lord chancellor added that any research would be subject to strict safeguards protecting jurors' privacy.

Jury 'confidence'

Lord Falconer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "You've got to keep the deliberations of the jurors secret, they have got to be confident that they can deliberate with it never being published and only in the rarest possible occasions even being investigated in any way."

You've got to keep the deliberations of the jurors secret, they have got to be confident that they can deliberate with it never being published
Lord Falconer

Under the consultation, if a jury was influenced, for example by racial bias, then a court should investigate, Lord Falconer said.

However, the issue of understanding how a jury comes to its verdict and "what would help them most in the presentation of cases" would require researchers to ask individual jurors their views, but not specifically about the cases they are judging.

"It would be wholly wrong to do that more general research in the course of a case," Lord Falconer said.

"It would be much, much better to do afterwards on an entirely anonymous basis," he added.

Ouija board

It is extremely rare for the secrets of the jury room to be revealed.

In 1994 insurance broker Stephen Young was granted a retrial after it emerged that a jury at Hove Crown Court had consulted a ouija board during their deliberations.

But Young was convicted for a second time at his retrial and jailed for life for the murder of Harry and Nicola Fuller.




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