Friday, 15 June 2007

New Jury Research

This was actually published on Wednesday, but I've only just got round to looking into it. It is apparently ground-breaking and debunks myths. I'm all in favour of myth debunking, but I prefer to destroy ridiculous chain email urban legends, leaving this sort of laborious and far more worthy stuff to people far better qualified. While the official releases are understandably very positive (MoJ, University of Birmingham) a couple of places have picked it up under headings suggesting ethnic minority defendants get an easier ride from juries, for instance "Juries 'more lenient' to minority defendants" and "Jurors show leniency to ethnic minorities", which distorts the report's findings.

The full report contains several interesting points (and I may discover more if I get the time to read it properly), among which are:

  • "There was some evidence that BME jurors on jury panels appeared to be selected to serve on juries less often than White jurors on jury panels, which may be the result of court clerks inadvertently avoiding reading out juror names that are difficult to pronounce." (p.14)
  • "There was no significant gender imbalance on juries at any of the three courts: 88% of all juries at all three courts had a male to female ratio of 6:6, 7:5 or 8:4." (p.14) Which means that in 12% of cases (1 in 8) there was a gender imbalance of 3:1 or greater. Which, if it makes any difference (and I can't recall any research either way off the top of my head), is pretty significant.
  • There can be quite wide disparities between different jurors, depending on the defendant's race (p.166). However, the report goes on to make the point that it is the final verdict of the whole jury which really matters and their whole point is that any individual biases are evened out by the system.
  • "White jurors at Blackfriars do not demonstrate bias against BME defendants, but instead show a more subtle bias in favour of the White defendant." (p.176)
The final kiss off is particularly revealing as it demonstrates just what they haven't investigated yet - "Research will now be conducted into whether all-white juries show any signs of bias against ethnic minority defendants."

Also, MoJ has been warned that it needs to do more to actually get benefits from IT and indeed "harness the power of IT". While the last bit is a piece of consultant buzzwording par excellence, there is undeniably great scope for improvement. Maybe they can get a supercomputer to crunch numbers for these reports faster.


Richard Elliot said...

Stupid really because you have been posting on my blog using a Blogger ID, but I didn't realise you had a blog too!

I'll be making it part of my regular reads. I've even given you a link from my site!

The Chief said...

Cheers for the link. Now the pressure is really on to come up with something interesting! I've got some half-baked economic theories on the way, feel free to shoot them down. I know the whole thing needs quite a bit of work in terms of style and content, but I think it's a good way of airing thoughts that don't merit a whole essay or as a testing site for ideas I'm working on.