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The Place of the Explained Verdict in the English Criminal Justice System

by Bethel G.A. Erastus-Obilo

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Pub date: 2008
Pages: 347
ISBN-10: 1599426897
ISBN-13: 9781599426891
Categories: Law & Legal StudiesLaw & Legal StudiesSocial Science


Lay participation in the criminal justice process in the form of a jury is a celebrated phenomenon throughout the common law jurisdictions. While not claiming credit for its origin, England, as the latent cradle of the modern jury, disseminated this mode of trial to a great part of the world through colonization. Yet, trial by jury does not enjoy constitutional protection under English law. The system has been under severe criticism, curtailment and considerable pressure in recent times, perhaps far more than in other countries. Critics have demanded reform or outright abolition and supporters have opposed the demands just as vehemently and any reform achieved has been piecemeal and reluctant. The furore has helped to galvanise robust and extensive intellectual debate on the subject. It has also spurned extensive academic research. Trial by jury remains central to a tiny but significant part of the Criminal Justice System. Yet, the jury, unlike other decision-making bodies, retains the power to deliver a verdict that is unique by its lack of an explanation. The issue does not sit comfortably with those who would have the system abolished or pray fair trials. The matter is traced to antiquity and the modern democracy struggles to articulate jury accountability.

This paper, the first to investigate the place of an explained verdict in the English Criminal Justice System, explores the competence of the jury to articulate an explanation for its verdict. In that pursuit, the paper engages in an analysis of the current state of jury trials in relevant legal and academic literature. It also engages in a comparative analysis of other jurisdictions and finds it instructive and prudent to draw extensively from the legal and social scientific experiences and experiments in selected parts of the world including the new quasi-jury systems in Europe. It explores the literature of legal scholarship and the social sciences and investigates the human psychology of decision-making based on selected text. Finally, it articulates the argument embodied in the hypothesis and the challenges facing its findings. The thesis concludes by examining the implications for its conclusions and sets the stage for areas of further research.