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Disclosure of jury deliberations



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AG 9 / 8 5

P A R L I A M E N T O F A U S T R A L I A

H O U S E O F R E P R E S E N T A T I V E S

J O H N S P E N D E R . Q .C .. M .P .

FEDERAL MEMBER FOR NORTH SYDNEY

SHADOW ATTORNEY-GENERAL

SUITE 601. 6TH FLOOR SHIELD HOUSE 83 MOUNT STREET (P.O. BOX 426) ยท

NORTH SYDNEY, N S W. 2060 TEL. 929 2849; 929 2969

30 O ctober 1985

DISCLOSURE OF JURY DELIBERATIONS

The V i c t o r i a n A tt o r n e y -G e n e r a l is q u i t e r i g h t t o propose l e g i s l a t i o n

to ban t h e s o l i c i t a t i o n o f j u r o r s ' oomments on c o u r t c a s e s . E q u a l l y ,

t h e Federal A tt o r n e y -G e n e r a l is wrong t o p r o c r a s t i n a t e on th e

i n t r o d u c t i o n o f Federal l e g i s l a t i o n .

How can j u r o r s speak in j u r y rooms w i t h th e f r a n k n e s s , openness

and d i r e c t n e s s t h e i r work demands when th e y know t h a t what th e y

say - o r a s l a n t e d , i n c o r r e c t o r p l a i n l y wrong v e r s io n o f what

t h e y say - may be splashed o v e r t h e f r o n t pages o f newspapers

th ro u g h o u t the c o u n t r y .

The widespread p u b l i c i t y g iven t o t h e d i s c l o s u r e s o f j u r o r s '

d e l i b e r a t i o n s in r e c e n t cases means t h a t from now on, j u r o r s w i l l

f e a r t h a t what th e y say w i l l expose them to p u b l i c c r i t i c i s m and

r i d i c u l e . What is worse, in c r im i n a l t r i a l s , th e y may f e a r t h a t

th e f r a n k e xp re s sio n o f t h e i r views in t h e j u r y room w i l l le a d to .

r e p r i s a l s a g a i n s t themselves o r t h e i r f a m i l i e s .

No one suggests t h a t th e j u r y system is p e r f e c t , but j u r y t r i a l -

remains a f t e r hundreds o f y ea rs th e f a i r e s t system we have been

a b le t o d e v is e f o r th e t r i a l o f most im p o r t a n t c r i m i n a l c a s e s,

and r e f l e c t s the deeply held community view t h a t a t r i a l o f g u i l t

o r innocence by on e's f e l l o w c i t i z e n s is b e t t e r than t r i a l by a

ju d g e a lo n e .

L e g i s l a t i o n to p re se rv e th e i n v i o a b i l i t y o f th e j u r y room, need not

p r e v e n t th e l e g i t i m a t e e xam in atio n o f th e course o f d e l i b e r a t i o n

in the j u r y room by bodies such as th e Law Reform Commission. But

th e g en eral r u l e must be t h a t what i s s a id in th e j u r y room must

remain in t h a t room, i f we a r e to p re s e rv e t h e j u r y system and th e

p u b l i c ' s co n fid e n ce in t h a t system.

The Federal A tto rn ey -G e n e ral should concede th e n e c e s s ity f o r

Federal l e g i s l a t i o n and move u rg e n tly to in tro d u c e such l e g i s l a t i o n .

The lo n g e r the Government d e la y s , the g r e a t e r the damage t h a t w i l l

be done to th e j u r y system. I t is a r e f l e c t i o n on th e Federal

Government t h a t on such an im portant is s u e , when the cases t h a t

have a t t r a c t e d p u b !ic n o t a r i e t y have been o f a m ainly Federal c h a ra c te r

t h a t the Federal Government should lea v e the running to o th e rs .

John Spender

30 October 1985