Role of the Jury
Juries are used in the NSW District
and Supreme Courts to:
hear and determine more serious
hear and determine civil matters
involving large monetary claims
Juries are also used in coronial
inquests in the NSW Coroner‟s Court.
In criminal trials, a jury hears evidence, applies
the law as directed by the judge, and decides
if a person is guilty or not guilty of a crime,
based on the facts. A jury does not participate
in the sentencing process.
In most criminal trials, 12 people are selected
to be on the jury. Up to 15 jurors can be
empanelled if a trial is expected to last longer
than three months. To be empanelled means
to be chosen for a specific trial.
Civil trials which require juries are usually
defamation proceedings. The trial judge will
outline the issues the jury needs to consider to
decide who is at fault. Four people are
selected to sit on a civil trial jury.
Who cannot serve on a Jury
People may be excluded from
the jury roll because they:
hold particular high public
office, such as GovernorGeneral or Members of the
Executive Committee; or are
employed in certain public
have a criminal conviction;
are serving a term of
imprisonment or detention;
have lost a driver's licence or
are undischarged bankrupts.
Depending on the offence
they may be excluded for life
or a set period of time.
People may be
exempt or have a
right to claim
exemption from jury
service because of
Those who can apply
for exemption include
clergy and emergency
Responsibilities of jurors
An accused person has the right to a fair trial, so
jurors should pay full attention to the trial
proceedings. This means you should not take
unrelated material, such as books, magazines or
iPads into the courtroom.
Jurors should at all times be open-minded, fair
If you realise in court that you know a witness, you
must immediately inform the judge in a note sent
via the court officer. The names of witnesses will
have been read out at the start of the case, so
whenever possible this should have been raised
before the jury was empanelled.
All jury discussions must occur in the jury room
and only when all jurors are present.
Do not discuss the case with any other people.
You should not speak to other people in the
precincts of the court. If you attend work on a day
when court is not sitting, be careful not to discuss
any details of the trial with your colleagues or
You will be provided with a notebook to take notes
as needed. You will have to hand this in each day,
and at the end of the trial. Once the matter has
been finalised, all the notebooks are destroyed.
You may be required to go on a 'jury view', where
you are taken to the scene of the alleged crime,
with the judge and legal representatives. These
visits are pre-arranged and treated like a normal
You are not permitted to visit the alleged crime
scene without the judge and legal representatives.
During the trial, you must not use any material or
research tool, including the internet, to find out
further information which relates to any matter
arising in the trial.
The Ashfield gang rapes were a series of attacks
involving indecent assault and rape of possibly as
many as eighteen teenaged women of varying
ethnic backgrounds which were carried out in
Ashfield, New South Wales, Australia in late 2001
and over a six-month period in 2002.
At the time of the trial, three of the K brothers
were already serving a prison sentence for a
previous rape. Defendant „MSK‟ divulged this
information, which had been kept from the jury to
prevent them from being biased against the
defendants, in open court in a supposed attempt
to have the trial aborted.
A gang rape victim will have to relive her ordeal during a retrial because two jurors
disobeyed a court's instructions.
Alleged gang rape ringleader Bilal Skaf and his brother Mohammed have had their
convictions for the gang rape of the then 16-year-old girl overturned after two jurors
conducted their own crime-scene experiments in breach of court rules.
The NSW Court of Criminal Appeal yesterday "regrettably" ordered retrials for both men,
at which the alleged victim will have to give her evidence again.
Keith Mason and Justices Brian Sully and James Wood upheld the brothers' appeals on
the grounds that two jurors miscarried the trial by conducting their own experiments. The
three court of appeal judges found the two men disobeyed the instructions of the trial
judge, Michael Finnane, who told the jury not to "go and do your own research".
Despite the warning, the jury foreman, 64, rang another juror the night before the verdict
was delivered and they went to the Greenacre park where the alleged rape occurred.
The two jurors went to a Sydney park for about 20 minutes to check the lighting
conditions, the judges said. "The foreman said he only went to the park to 'clarify
something for my own mind'". However, as identity was an issue in the trial, the judges
found the experiment was a miscarriage of justice. "In our view there must, regrettably,
be a new trial because of this ground," they said.
To ensure other trials were not miscarried because of juror misconduct the judges also
ordered that juries be given more specific directions.
These include not making private visits to the crime scene, not asking other jurors to
conduct experiments and informing the trial judge if they discover fellow jurors making
independent inquiries into the case.
Jurors playing Sudoku abort
AFTER 105 witnesses and three months of evidence, a drug trial costing $1
million was aborted yesterday when it emerged that jurors had been playing
Sudoku since the trial's second week.
In the District Court in Sydney, Judge Peter Zahra discharged the jury after
hearing evidence from two accused men, one of their solicitors and the jury
forewoman, who admitted that she and four other jurors had been diverting
themselves in the jury box by playing the popular numbers game.
More than 20 police gave evidence in the case, in which the two accused
faced a common charge of conspiracy to manufacture a commercial
quantity of amphetamines. One faced further firearms and drug possession
indictments. The prosecution and defence were due to deliver final
addresses to the jury this week.
But last week, as one of the accused was giving evidence, he saw the jury
forewoman playing what he thought was Sudoku. His co-accused saw it
too, and the defence counsel made a joint application for a discharge.
Yesterday Judge Zahra took unsworn evidence from the forewoman in
which she confirmed the accused men's suspicions. She said four or five
jurors had brought in the Sudoku sheets and photocopied them to play
during the trial and then compare their results during meal breaks. She
admitted to having spent more than half of her time in court playing the
“Jurors need more direction”
It is a pinnacle of the adversarial
system of justice that governs criminal
trials in this country, but most jurors
asked to determine a person's fate
struggle to understand what ''beyond
reasonable doubt'' means.
A NSW Law Reform Commission
review of the directions judges give to
juries finds they are not working, are
outdated, overly complex and need to
Read the full article:
Access the NSW LRC‟s report and
make summary notes.