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Introduction (What was the law before the Criminal Justice Act 2003)
Prior to the Criminal Justice Act 2003 (CJA 2003) the Juries Act 1974 set out the eligibility and disqualification criteria for jurors. It also gave people in certain professions the right to opt out of jury duty. The Criminal Justice Act 2003, implemented many of the recommendations in the Auld,Report- most notably it removed some groups of people from disqualification and abolished the right to opt out of jury duty from certain professions.
Body of the essay (What changes did the Criminal Justice Act 2003 make?)
The CJA 2003 states that those aged 18-70 registered on the electoral register, resident in the UK for at least 5 years since the age of 13 would be eligible for jury duty in the UK. The act also outlines the disqualifications which include persons on bail, those with serious criminal convictions as well as the mentally disordered persons.
Prior to the CJA 2003, five categories of person were ineligible for jury service, the judiciary, those involved in the administration of justice such as police officers and solicitors, the clergy, police with mental ill health and people on bail.
Key point: As a result of the CJA 2003, everyone summoned for jury duty except full time members of the armed forces, those over 65, those that have served jury duty in the last two years, MPs and certain members of the medical profession and those with religious beliefs that may be incompatible will be expected to serve as a juror and excusals will only be given in extreme circumstances. The result of this has had dramatic consequence for some medical professionals as many will not be excused from jury duty. If a key medical professional is summoned for jury duty many patients’ appointments would have to be cancelled or that person would have to defer and take time out of their holidays.
Following the CJA 2003, only the mentally ill are ineligible and so arguable jurors have become more representative of society. However there have been criticisms of the definition of mentally disordered persons as it currently does not distinguish between those receiving treatment for mild depression from their GP and those sectioned under the Mental Health Act 1983 which could limit the representation of jurors.
Key Point: Another result of the CJA 2003 is that people, who work in the criminal justice system, which make it more difficult to remain impartial as a juror, are now eligible to be a juror. In some cases police officers and Crown Prosecution Service solicitors have sat as jurors and this may infringe a defendant’s right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR. There is also the risk that other jurors may be swayed by the opinion of someone working within the criminal justice system. For example in R v Abdroikof and others it was held that a police officer should not be excluded from the jury simply because of his occupation it would depend on the risk of bias. However in R v Sussex Justices ex parte McCarthy one judge said ‘not only must justice be done; it must be seen to be done.’ It was held in this case that the presence of a juror who was also a Crown Prosecutor was not neutral as he was a full-time salaried, long serving employee of Prosecution.
Conclusion (Your views do not use ‘I think’)
The CJA 2003 has had some positive impact. The fact that more people are eligible and excusals are harder to get means that the juries are a lot more representative of society than they were prior to 2003. Juries are supposed to reflect how society would judge a defendant; therefore if more people can be selected as a juror, it should provide a fairer verdict supporting Article 6 of the ECHR.
The reforms on eligibility brought by the CJA 2003 have increased the representation of society, potentially at the cost of allowing potential bias into juries. There has also been criticism that the right for certain individuals excused should not have been removed as their service to the community outweighed the value of jury duty.
Note: Use law and cases to add weight to your essay see underlined sections above.see more