Centre for Empirical Legal Studies


UCL Laws: Centre for Empirical Legal Studies

Welcome to the Jury Decision-Making Research Programme

Directed by Professor Cheryl Thomas
Research Fellow Dr. Nigel Balmer

This research examines whether a fair trial depends on the racial composition of the jury, whether jury conviction rates vary by court or offence, whether jurors understand legal directions, whether jurors are aware of media coverage of their cases or use the internet during trial. The research has been commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and follows the previous groundbreaking study of the jury system by Professor Thomas. That study revealed that mixed ethnicity juries in London did not discriminate against defendants based on their ethnicity but that most juries in most Crown Courts are likely to be all-White juries. A crucial question addressed in this new research is whether all-White juries discriminate against ethnic minority defendants.

Both the Auld Review of the Criminal Courts and the Runciman Royal Commission assumed that the ethnic make-up of juries may affect the jury's fairness, especially towards ethnic minorities. This research examines the proportion of ethnic minority defendants tried by all-White juries at each Crown Court in England and Wales , and whether all-White juries discriminate against ethnic minority defendants. The research uses an innovative approach to understanding how juries make their decisions. It combines case simulation with real jurors at Crown Courts with analysis of over 68,000 actual jury verdicts at all Crown Courts in England and Wales .

The research also examines for the first time in this country how effective juries are (how often they are discharged or unable to reach a verdict), whether juries are consistent in their decision-making (whether there are significant variations in jury conviction rates by court or offence), whether jurors understand judicial directions on the law and on improper jury conduct, what impact media reporting of jury trials has on jurors and to what extent jurors look for information about their cases on the internet during trial.

The research tackles controversial and hard questions about jury trials, and explores whether the jury system is a fair means of dispensing justice in our society.

Media Reports:

For queries or further information about the project please contact Professor Cheryl Thomas cheryl.thomas@ucl.ac.uk