The new punitiveness in NSW

30 04 2008

Attacks on the right to be judged by one’s peers are steadily mounting in NSW, as the government introduces changes to the Jury Act.  This follows recent amendments changing the need for unanimous decisions – 11/12 is apparently near enough according to the NSW government.  I’m reminded once again of the aphorism- “better to let ten guilty men walk free than to imprison one innocent man”.


From the ABC news online:

Judges “should be able to dismiss individual jurors”


New South Wales Cabinet has approved changes to the Jury Act to give judges the discretion to dismiss an individual juror without aborting a whole trial.

NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos says he wants to stop entire trials being aborted to the detriment of all, because of the actions of an individual juror.

Mr Hatzistergos says he does not believe the changes will disadvantage defendants.

“If for example the act of misconduct or the act of wrong empanelment has in some way contaminated the entire jury than the judge will have the discretion to be able to act accordingly,” he said.

“But we want to ensure that the jury system is able to be preserved and in particular that unnecessary abortions of jury trials can be avoided.”

But New South Wales shadow attorney-general Greg Smith says the Government has only acted on four out of 70 recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission.

He says lifting jurors’ fees should be a top priority.

“The fees paid to jurors are inadequate,” he said.

“They’re falling behind the average weekly earnings and I think that’s leading to many people that should be serving on jurors seeking exemption because they can’t afford it.

“Trials are getting longer.”