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New South Wales Law Reform Commission: Report 111 Majority Verdicts

NCJ Number
Date Published
August 2005
108 pages
This report presents recommendations of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission regarding whether New South Wales should retain the current requirement that juries in a criminal trial unanimously agree on a verdict or permit verdicts based on the majority decision of the jury members.
After a review of the relevant research, the Commission concluded that research to date indicates that juries required to reach unanimous decisions consider the evidence more carefully and report higher levels of juror confidence in the ultimate decision, compared with juries under a majority-verdict system. In considering arguments for and against jury unanimity, the consequence of hung juries is considered one of the most persuasive arguments against the requirement of unanimous verdicts, particularly when one or two jurors can prevent a verdict being reached; however, the Commission notes that most hung juries are split fairly evenly, with 11:1 or 10:2 splits present in less than half of all hung juries in New South Wales. After examining the research and arguments for and against the existing requirement of jury unanimity, the Commission recommends that the system of jury unanimity be retained. A second recommendation is that research be conducted into the adequacy and possible improvement of strategies that might assist the process of jury comprehension and deliberation as a means of reducing the percentage of hung juries. Appended list of submissions to the Commission, a table of legislation, and 52 references