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New research raises critical questions about fairness of jury process

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New research raises critical questions about fairness of jury process

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University of Birmingham study reveals public concerns over jury diversity and fairness, highlighting racial bias issues

New research from the University of Birmingham questions the fairness of jury processes in England and Wales, particularly regarding racial minorities. The study, conducted by experts from the University's School of Law, surveyed 1,000 people and found significant concerns about jury diversity and trust in the criminal justice system.

Key findings include:

  • Diversity in Juries: 61% of respondents believe more diverse juries are fairer, yet current juries lack diversity.
  • Public Perception of Jury Service: 96% consider jury service important, and 87% would serve if summoned.
  • Eligibility Confusion: Nearly half of respondents do not know how to become eligible for jury service.
  • Trust in the System: Over 50% do not believe the criminal justice system is fair, and 40% have little or no trust in juries.

Dr. Tara Lai Quinlan, who led the survey, emphasised the urgency of addressing these issues, especially in light of the third anniversary of Dea-John Reid’s death. Reid, a 14-year-old Black schoolboy, was racially abused and killed in 2021. The subsequent trial saw a predominantly white jury acquit most perpetrators, raising concerns about racial bias.

Dr. Quinlan noted, “The attack on Dea-John was caught on CCTV, yet a jury with no Black members acquitted most perpetrators and convicted the main aggressor of only manslaughter, resulting in a six-year sentence. Our study highlights the critical need for fair and diverse juries.”

The research indicates that 90% of respondents believe discrimination on juries should be reported and investigated, yet current laws do not provide such mechanisms.

Dr. Katharina Karcher, a collaborator on the study, stressed the need to build greater trust in juries. She suggested improving ethnic diversity and introducing measures to address discrimination could significantly enhance public confidence.

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