Juries are often prejudiced, just like society. Should we get rid of them? | Bri Lee

Getting rid of juries would give some relief to victims of sexual assault, but it wouldn’t solve the real problem

The first mistake people often make when they talk about juries is to say that they’re necessary and important because they’ve “always” been part of the justice system. As though 1) the justice system doesn’t grow and change, and 2) the way it’s always been is the way it needs to be. There’s a lot wrong with Australia’s current jury system, but more importantly, there’s a lot of simple, easy stuff we can do that would go a long way to fixing it.

When jury trials first started in Australia, only land-owning men of a certain means would be called for duty. Criminal laws (and therefore laws around juries) are legislated by state, not federally, in Australia. Queensland was the first state to allow women to serve on juries, and that was back in 1924, but according to the state library of Queensland’s archives, the first female juror wasn’t actually empanelled until 1945. Victoria didn’t catch on until 1975, and when women first started serving on juries, the Sydney Morning Herald reported they were being paid nine shillings a day compared with men receiving 16 shillings and twopence per day.

Continue reading…