On 2 March 2020, the Society co-hosted a roundtable event along with Rape Crisis Scotland on considering juries in light of the new research into jury decision making. This event provided a valuable opportunity to bring together Scottish Government policy officials, members of the profession and representatives of various victim groups to discuss the findings from the new research into jury decisions making published last year.
Professors James Chalmers and Fiona Leverick, Glasgow University outlined the background to this study which will help inform ongoing debates about the effects of the jury size, simple majority, not proven verdict, as well as related matters such as jury attitudes and corroboration. These are all important topics which the attendees discussed from their various perspectives, whether as the representatives of the complainer, accused or public.
Having the victims' groups round the table with members of the profession allowed each to understand the other points of view, on occasion coloured by victims’ personal experiences. As one attendee commented: "it is only by providing a safe environment that allows us to learn more about what happens in the Scottish criminal justice system with a view to looking at lessons learnt to see how or what should or could be done to improve the system."
In going forward from this study, the roundtable recognised that these discussions promoted an enhanced understanding of where jurors may require additional support or guidance to avoid legal misunderstandings. The role of education and the need to develop awareness raising for all including the profession was an important conclusion from the event.
From the profession's perspective, we would encourage solicitors to read the conclusions from the study and take the opportunity to attend any of the Scottish Government events taking place across the country or indeed direct comments to Professors Chalmers or Leverick at Glasgow University.
We found it invaluable to hear from all who attended and for making this event happen. This type of event provides a real opportunity to capitalise on hearing from victims and an opportunity for the profession to respond. It provided 'a good template for the future' in bringing these groups together.
We are considering other ways for the profession to engage with the victims' groups in developing a better understanding of the role of the profession and the views of victims are essential to us in considering the agenda for criminal justice reform.
Resources produced to supplement the study
Judge’s opening and closing directions
- Working Paper 2 has a much more detailed analysis of the attitudes towards rape held by the jurors
- The research report itself and the evidence reviews undertaken as part of the project are available via the project page on Glasgow University's website
To learn more about our work on jury research and the experiences of victims in the criminal justice system, email Gillian at firstname.lastname@example.org