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Behind bars | Common sense and a sharp eye

Stories about dopey juries are irresistible to the mainstream press but ?Jeannie Mackie gives a little airtime to the juries that put the pros to shame

8 March 2013

It is always a wince making moment for criminal practitioners when a jury makes a pig’s ear of a case and the tabloids go large on their idiocy. It adds fuel to the never quite extinguished fire that simmers under the surface – that juries are a waste of time and money; that they let too many people off; that they are an expensive luxury we can no longer afford. It also feeds into the debate about who actually serves on juries. For those who have never set foot in a courtroom, they are of course the unemployed, housewives, and the idle. Those of us whose feet are rarely anywhere else know that juries by and large are both diverse and characteristic of the citizenry as a whole: a mix of young and old, women and men, soft hearted and hard boiled, scruffy and well dressed, black and white, Guardian reading and gravely illiterate, with the occasional narcoleptic snoozing in the back row. What is extremely surprising is how rarely that mixture throw...

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