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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200818 Find in a Library
Title: Jury in Belgium
Journal: International Review of Penal Law  Volume:72  Issue:1-2  Dated:2001  Pages:27-50
Author(s): Philip Traest
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 24
Type: Legislation/Policy Description
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: France
Annotation: This article discusses the jury system in Belgium.
Abstract: The participation of laypersons in the criminal process in Belgium is limited to the procedure before the “Assize court.” For other judicial instances the duty of laypersons is restricted to functions as a witness or an expert. Laypersons can sit temporarily as judges in conclave with professional judges in some courts where social and commercial cases are tried. Laypersons can serve as judges in criminal cases only before the Assize court. The principles of orality and continuity of the proceedings rule the trial before the Assize. Continuity of proceedings means that once the proceedings have been started they have to continue without any interruption and without any contact with the outside world until the jury’s verdict. The president of the Assize court plays a very important role in the jury trial. The first step in the proceedings is the selection of the jury. After all witnesses and experts have been heard, the court proceeds to the closing speeches. The decision of the jury is obtained by means of some questions about the elements of the crime. The members of the jury are brought to a separate room for their deliberation and are not allowed to leave this room before they have reached a verdict. After the decision of the jury on the question of guilt, the second phase of the jury trial starts. If there is a verdict of guilty the debate about the penalty starts. The final sentence is decided by the jury and court together--15 persons in all. The Assize court decides the damages to be granted to the victim or his/her family. This decision is made by the professional judges only, without the jury. There is no appeal possible against a decision of the Assize court. Statistically, the jury trial is uncommon in the Belgian judicial activity. On the question of whether the jury system and the Assize court need to be maintained or if it would be better to let professionally trained magistrates judge crimes, supporters argue that there would be a danger for job-related disability for professional judges. 62 footnotes, bibliography
Main Term(s): Belgium; Juries
Index Term(s): Court rules; Judicial process; Jury decisionmaking; Jury selection; Mixed court system; Trial procedures; Verdicts
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