Judge and jury: Exploring the challenges of the 21st century jury system


Date: 18/11/2009

As jurors are faced with increasingly complex and lengthy trials, legal scholars and practitioners will gather in Sydney to investigate how to achieve meaningful reform.

The 'Jury Research and Practice Conference' will be held at NSW Parliament House on Friday the 20th of November.

Conference Chair Professor David Tait, from the University of Western Sydney Justice Research Group, says in the past ten years the length of jury trials has doubled in some Australian states, sparking a huge blowout in costs and demands for court space.

"The role of juries is deeply embedded in our psyche and in the justice system, but the system faces ongoing challenges," he says.

"Ironically, just when the state system is groaning under the pressure, the federal court is about to introduce jury trials."

"This conference brings together jury practitioners - judges, jury managers, prosecutors, defence lawyers and others- with academics to share ideas and come up with a blueprint for future research and reforms to help improve our jury trials."

"Speakers from Ireland and Japan will report on the state of juries in their countries."

Professor Tait says the keynote speaker for the event, the Deputy President of the New Zealand Law Commission Professor Warren Young, will discuss continuing reforms to New Zealand's jury system.

"Professor Young comes from a very interesting background, because he not only led the research team that identified possible reforms, he then led the team that began to implement the changes," he says.

"Among the reforms, trials in New Zealand now feature more thorough pre-conference hearings to reduce the length of trials for juries, and evidence may now be presented thematically, which allows juries to better compare the alternate arguments."

Professor Tait says Associate Professor Sandra Hale, from the UWS Interpreting and Translation Research Group, will address the conference on new research regarding the role of interpreters in trials.

"Research shows witnesses are not only judged on what they say, but how they say it," Professor Tait says.

"Associate Professor Hale will outline new research which looks at whether jurors are influenced by the language of the witness and the accent of the interpreter, and the need for further research to better inform the training and practices of courtroom interpreters."

Other highlights of the Conference include some reflections on her recent experience in the Parramatta terrorism trial by leading barrister Dina Yehia SC, and a report by Professor Jane Goodman-Delahunty from Charles Sturt University about how well jurors understand DNA evidence, and what difference training makes.

For more details please visit http://www.uws.edu.au/justice/justice/jury_conference

Ends

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Mark Smith
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