WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
May 21 2024
WE ARE A MAGAZINE ABOUT LAW AND JUSTICE | AND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO
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Majority Verdicts behind miscarriages of justice, research finds

Majority Verdicts behind miscarriages of justice, research finds

At least 56 miscarriages of justice have been the result of majority verdicts, research by the charity Appeal has found.

Majority verdicts, which allow for convictions even when two jurors find the defendant innocent, account for approximately one in eight crown court convictions. At least 56 of these convictions have since been quashed. Since data on majority verdicts is not kept, the figure is likely higher.

Majority verdicts were behind the conviction of Andrew Malkinson, who was jailed for 17 years despite questionable identification evidence, and Winston Trew, convicted on the evidence of corrupt police officer Derek Ridgewell.

Majority verdicts were introduced in 1967, purportedly to deal with the threat of ‘nobbling’, where jurors were bribed or intimidated into giving different verdicts. Only a handful of such cases were ever identified. Writing in the latest issue of Proof, Nisha Waller identified ‘a desire to dilute the influence of “coloured” and working class jurors’ as a key influence behind this legal reform.

Appeal’s report states that ‘Majority verdicts arguably dilute the principle of reasonable doubt. A split verdict intrinsically implies the presence of reasonable doubt in at least one juror and the ability to exclude this voice has far reaching implications’

In America, the 2020 Supreme Court case of Ramos v Louisiana found that majority verdicts undermined the right to a jury trial, and prohibited their use for serious offences. 56% of overturned convictions in Louisiana were the result of majority verdicts.

Appeal’s report recommends reinstating the principle of jury unanimity, collecting data on majority verdicts, and amending the Contempt of Court Act to allow for research on jury decisionmaking.