The confidentiality of jury deliberations in British criminal trials is maintained by common law rules, as well as by statute. As a result, relatively little is known about how juries actually behave. The article describes and assesses the confidentiality principle, as it operates in both English and Scots law. The courts presume that juries conduct themselves properly, in the manner of an ‘ideal’ or ‘model’ jury. This presumption of propriety and the features of the ‘model jury’ are described, as are the various ways in which actual juries can, and do, fall short of the ideal. The article concludes that the confidentiality principle prevents the courts from conducting appropriate investigation into allegations of jury misbehaviour, and that it is time to end the secrecy surrounding jury deliberations. Various options for reform are considered.
- Criminal trials