What can we learn from published jury research?: findings for the criminal courts review 2001

AuthorPenny Darbyshire
PositionReader in Law, Kingston University
Summary: Contrary to popular myth that “there is no jury
research”, there is a mass of work published throughout the
world and the English legal system could learn a lot from it,
in reshaping the jury system. Here I summarise findings
made by a Kingston team, commissioned by the Criminal
Courts Review, to analyse empirical research and personal
accounts of jury service and extrapolate lessons for the
English legal system.
On commencing the Criminal Courts Review, Lord
Justice Auld asked whether s. 8 of the Contempt Act, 1981
should be repealed so as to permit research into the jury and
asked what we were likely to find if such research were
carried out. His call follows the clamour for the repeal of the
section to enable interviews to be carried out on “real”
English and Welsh jurors. Many legal commentators here
wrongly believe that s. 8 put a stop to all useful jury research.
When new work is published, such as that conducted for the
New Zealand Law Commission from 1998, it is received as a
revelation, as if it were the only such work, oblivious of the
fact that a search in sophisticated legal and or criminal justice
English language databases will reveal 3-5,000 pieces of jury
research or commentaries thereon. I studied the American
jury in great depth, while teaching at the University of
71 Judicial Studies Institute Journal [3:1
* Reader in Law, Kingston University. First published in the Criminal
Law Review [2001] pp. 970-979 and reprinted by kind permission of the
publisher, Sweet & Maxwell Limited.
California at Berkeley, in 1992-3 and became aware of this
mass of work, mostly by social scientists and experimental
psychologists, from the U.K., the U.S.A., Canada, New
Zealand, Australia, Spain and Russia. Consequently my
response to Auld L.J.’s questions was to suggest that before
we expend British taxpayers’ money in re-inventing the
wheel, we should attempt to summarise and examine this
mass of existing empirical data to see if there were lessons
we could learn for the restructuring of English jury
composition and the trial process.
The task almost overwhelmed us. We concentrated on
what seemed, from the literature, to be the most cited and
academically respected pieces. We excluded work of no
relevance, such as that applicable peculiarly to civil juries.
We omitted the mass of work produced by the multi-million
dollar American “trial support” industry, which feeds
information to trial lawyers selecting jurors in the elaborate
American “voir dire” system and devising trial tactics,
because much of this is not academically respected. We
completed the task in one month in autumn 2000, for its
delivery to Auld L.J. Some significant items from 2001 have
been added but we do not pretend to present an exhaustive
survey. Sources are not footnoted here, nor is our extensive
bibliography attached.1
We examined research on jury composition and the
representativeness of jury panels; how juror’s characteristics
affect deliberation and the verdict; the mental process of the
individual juror; the dynamics of deliberation; the timing and
effectiveness of instructions, verbal and written; tactics to
make jurors less passive, such as asking questions and
2003] What Can We Learn from Jury Research? 72
1 These can be obtained from the full report, “What Can the English
Legal System Learn from Jury Research Published up to 2000?”,
accessible online via the Criminal Courts Review website:
www.criminal-courts-review.org.uk or as the hard copy document,
published by Kingston University and available from

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