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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 200842 Find in a Library
Title: International Development of the Jury: The Role of the British Empire
Journal: International Review of Penal Law  Volume:72  Issue:1-2  Dated:2001  Pages:525-551
Author(s): Richard Vogler
Date Published: 2001
Page Count: 27
Type: Legislation/Policy Analysis
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This article discusses how the British used the jury system to advance their colonial interests.
Abstract: The jury system in the 18th century represented little more than arbitrary authority and racism. The jury was based upon a highly flexible standard that favored European minorities. This had a double benefit for British colonists. First it gave them direct and exclusive control of local criminal justice, enabling them to assert their authority over both native people and other European settlers. Second, it provided British colonial settlers with the powerful weapon of nullification over imperial legislation and permitted a wide measure of independence from the colonial authorities. The right to jury trial could be established as a fundamental principle of jurisprudence that allowed colonists arriving in unsettled territories to carry with them the full jurisdiction of the common law. The role of the jury was essentially political and was the direct empowerment of European colonial minorities. The North American experience was crucial in the development of an “imperial” form of jury for use in colonial territories. The jury selection process excluded Native Americans, landless settlers, convicts, and African-American slaves. The British adopted a variety of approaches to jury trial in response to particular conditions and the degree of local authority that they exercised. After the catastrophic experiment with the English model in America, high qualificatory thresholds were adopted in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and the Cape. The discretionary system based upon the 1832 Bengal Regulation was adopted, as in India, in many parts of British Africa and the Pacific colonies. These patterns of imperial control have left significant residues in contemporary practice around the world. The legacy of exclusivity in selections and open racism has soured much of the former colonial world against the idea of direct popular participation in criminal justice. It has allowed the perpetuation of another colonial mode of trial -- judge and assessors -- that has reinforced the highly authoritarian character of much post-independence criminal justice. 157 footnotes
Main Term(s): Great Britain/United Kingdom; History of criminal justice
Index Term(s): Class discrimination; Criminal justice system policy; Juries; Juror characteristics; Jury selection; Racial discrimination
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