Hung Jury

May 1, 2019

How is a jury made up?

A jury is comprised of 12 people. Before a trial starts in the Crown Court there is a process of jury selection, whereby 12 members of the jury are selected from a ‘pool’ of available candidates that have been selected from the wider community.

What is the jury responsible for?

Once the trial starts, it becomes the responsibility of the jury to decide whether that person is guilty of the offence(s) for which they are on trial. This is the essence of a trial and the essence of what the jury must do.

Acting as a juror is a very serious responsibility and the jury are told by the judge presiding over the trial that they cannot convict a person unless they are sure of that person’s guilt – otherwise known as being sure and beyond all reasonable doubt. The announcement of their decision is the verdict.

Before the jury are asked whether they have reached a verdict, the judge reminds them of the evidence that they have heard and the law that they must apply to the case, which is relevant to what the accused person is standing trial for.

Once the judge has done this, the members of the jury are sent to the retirement room, which is a private room in the court building where they are free to discuss the case and their thoughts amongst themselves.

What is a majority verdict?

In cases where the jury struggles to all agree on the same verdict, the judge may decide that a verdict can be returned if a majority of the jury can reach an agreement on whether they are sure of the accused’s guilt or innocence. This is known as ‘majority verdict’ and normally means that the judge is content to receive a verdict if 10 or more of the 12 jurors are in agreement.

A jury is required to reach a clear conclusion by either convicting or acquitting the defendant. A majority of 10–2 is needed for a verdict, failure to reach this is not an acceptable verdict. If the jury indicates that they will not be able to reach a verdict in accordance with the law, the jury will need to be discharged. In legal terms, this is often referred to as a ‘hung jury’.

What happens next?

In most cases the prosecution can apply to have the defendant tried again. The decision is left with the trial Judge to consider if it is in the interest of justice for the defendant to be re-tried.

There are a number of questions that need to be considered some of which are whether the offence the defendant is being charged with is sufficiently serious to justify a retrial. Whether if convicted, the defendant would be likely to serve a significant period in custody. The wishes of the victim of the alleged offence.

In most case, defence will not be able to resist an application for retrial. However, defence should consider if there has been any abuse of process to allow for a retrial. They should also carefully consider all relevant factors and object to a retrial if able to.

How MTG Solicitors can help you

To discuss anything to do with offences concerning a hung jury please contact us on 020 8754 5577 and we will gladly assist.