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Extra jurors not necessary, says ex-Bailiff

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HAVING reserve jurors for lengthy trials is unnecessary, as ‘99 times out 100’ they will not be needed, a former Bailiff has said.

Sir Michael Birt

Under proposals to overhaul the criminal justice system, Home Affairs Minister Kristina Moore has suggested that two reserve jurors be appointed for trials lasting more than five days in case one of the 12 original jurors has to drop out.

However, speaking at a Scrutiny panel hearing to review the proposed law changes, Commissioner Sir Michael Birt said that he had not known a trial to fall below ten jurors – the minimum number required to reach a verdict.

And he, alongside Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith, echoed comments made by the Bailiff, Sir William Bailhache, about the potential problems of a lack of resources and publicity that would make staging retrials complicated.

The proposition, which has been approved in principle, also includes provisions which would prevents rapists and child abusers from cross-examining their victims in court and would also give prosecutors the ability to bring about a retrial in the event of a hung jury.

Sir Michael said: ‘It essentially comes down to two parts – one is the risk of adverse publicity in a small jurisdiction. There are quite public news headlines on most jury trials – usually a front page.

‘In a small jurisdiction I wonder whether it is possible for jurors to put that out of their mind.’

He added that the UK had a much greater number of trials and multiple court rooms and districts to move retrials to if required.

Mr Clyde-Smith said: ‘If the prosecution can’t persuade ten people to convict, then the defendant is acquitted. Should the balance be shifted to the prosecution to allow them to have two bites of the cherry?’

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Discussing the issue of reserve jurors, Sir Michael said: ‘In the vast majority of cases, those poor jurors will sit through a trial and do nothing. It would be a waste of their time and a cost to their living.

‘You have to ask yourself, if it happens so rarely is it worth doing it?’

He added that provisions could be put in place to allow the trial judge to appoint reserve jurors for particularly lengthy trials at their discretion but that the one-week period was too short.

The proposition is due to come back before the States for final approval on Tuesday 20 March.

Deputies Sam Mézec and Richard Renouf were sitting on the panel.

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