Australian Institute of Criminology

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Juror understanding of judicial instructions

Crime facts info no. 186

ISSN 1445-7288
Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, March 2009

The overwhelming majority of jurors understand judicial instructions and judges' summing-up of evidence in criminal trials, according to a report by the New South Wales (NSW) Law Reform Commission and the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (Trimboli 2008). The report is based on a survey from July 2007 to February 2008 of 1,221 jurors involved in selected criminal trials in the Supreme Court and District Court of NSW. Respondents completed the surveys at the end of the relevant trial, juror participation being voluntary. Regarding the judge's instructions on the law, the majority of jurors (99.7%) stated that they either understood completely or understood most things the judge said. Concerning the judge's summing-up of the trial evidence, the vast majority of jurors stated that the judge used words that were easy to understand; most viewed it as 'about the right length'; and 85.3 percent stated that they understood 'everything' or 'nearly everything'. The majority of jurors perceived the judge's summing-up to be the most significant help to the jury in reaching a verdict.

Extent of jurors' self-reported understanding of the judge's summing-up of evidence
NumberPercenta
Source: Trimboli 2008
a: Because of rounding the total does not sum to 100.
Understood everything judge said 702 57.5
Understood nearly everything judge said 340 27.9
Understood most things judge said 176 14.4
Understood very little of what judge said 3 0.3
Total 1,221 100.1

References

Trimboli L 2008. Juror understanding of judicial instructions in criminal trials. Crime and justice bulletin no. 119. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.