Should jurors be able to have a say in how an offender is sentenced? This is the main question raised in an Issues Paper released today by the NSW Law Reform Commission.
Under the current law, the jury's role ends as soon as it decides on a verdict of guilty or not guilty. However, some argue that jurors should also have a role in the sentencing phase after they have found an offender guilty. For example, they could be asked questions about why they believed the offender was guilty, or if they thought it likely that the offender could be rehabilitated or might commit another crime.
Jury involvement in sentencing could have the advantage of bolstering public confidence in sentencing by exposing judges directly to community views. On the other hand, knowing that the reasons for their verdict may be later examined could make some jurors reluctant to express their true views when deciding on the verdict in the first place. This could seriously affect the right to a fair trial.
Issues Paper 27 looks at the pros and cons of involving the jury in sentencing decisions. It discusses the ways in which jury involvement could work, and the practical difficulties that could arise.
The Commission would like to hear the views of all those interested in the fair working of the criminal justice system. In addition to the legal profession and criminal justice interest groups, the Commission would also like to hear from members of the public, including past jurors, on the issues raised in the paper.
Copies may be obtained by email (email@example.com), or telephone
(02) 9228 8230. Alternatively, the Issues Paper is available on the Commission's web page at
Justice James Wood, Chairperson: ph (02) 9228 8230
Michael Tilbury, Commissioner: ph (02) 9228 8230
Peter Hennessy, Executive Director: ph (02) 9228 8230