Government welcomes VLRC report into Jury Empanelment

Attorney-General, Robert Clark, has welcomed a Victorian Law Reform Commission report on the jury empanelment process, which was tabled in Parliament today.

Mr Clark said the Jury Empanelment Report examines whether there should be procedural, administrative and legislative changes to improve the system and makes 16 recommendations.

“Jury empanelment is the process of selecting the members of a jury for a case from the pool of persons who have been summoned for jury duty,” Mr Clark said.

“Juries are a fundamental part of Victoria’s justice system, and members of the community make an enormous contribution to the rule of law when they sit on a jury.

“It is important to ensure that jury empanelment functions justly, effectively and efficiently and results in a cross section that is representative of the community.”

The report’s recommendations include:

  • that jurors be identified by number only in both criminal and civil trials – this accords with the preference of the majority of jurors;
  • that peremptory challenges be retained in criminal and civil trials and that the number of these challenges be reduced from six to three in criminal trials (and equivalently for Crown stand asides) and from three to two in civil trials; and
  • the repeal of section 48 of the Juries Act, which provides for balloting off jurors in criminal trials in excess of 12 jurors, and in civil trials in excess of six jurors, prior to the jury retiring to consider its verdict. 

Mr Clark said the Victorian Government would give careful consideration to the report’s recommendations

Mr Clark said the Government has already introduced legislation to amend the Juries Act to provide that any prospective juror who is stood aside by the Crown should be removed from the ballot for that trial, allowing them to go back into the jury pool for other trials.

“This amendment will address current inconsistencies of practice, clarify the appropriate procedure and be better for the potential juror,” Mr Clark said.