Jury Retires for Verdict

After all the evidence has been given and summed up in court, the judge will ask the jury to retire to the jury room to consider their verdict. During this time you must not talk to anyone about the case except other jury members. All discussion must take place in the privacy of the jury room and when all jurors are present.

Once a jury retires to consider their verdict, jurors will have to stay together at lunchtime – lunch will be provided.

Towards the end of the trial the judge will give you more details about arrangements during the jury deliberation period.

In most cases the judge will permit the jurors to go home each night. If allowed to go home, each juror will be required to swear (or affirm) that he or she will not discuss with any non-juror anything relating to the evidence in the trial or to the deliberations of the jury.

If the jury wants to finish its deliberations early on any day the judge will deal with such a request.

Sometimes you may be required to stay later than 4.15 pm or even stay overnight until a decision is reached. You will normally be told the day before if you are required to stay overnight so that you can bring an overnight bag the next day. Otherwise the Juries Commissioner will make arrangements for you. You will be provided with meals and accommodation. Messages can be passed on to family and friends.

If the verdict is given late at night, the court will arrange transport home if necessary.

Jury decision-making
Provided you always follow the judge’s instructions about the law, you are free to deliberate in any way you wish. The discussion in the jury room is chaired by the foreman/forewoman. He or she should ensure that discussions are carried out in a free, unhurried and orderly way, focussing on the issues to be decided and letting each juror have a chance to participate in discussion.

During the deliberations jurors should keep an open mind, listen carefully to everyone and be prepared to tell others on the jury what they think and why.

Be prepared to change your mind when there is good reason for doing so. At the same time try not to be overly influenced by other people’s ideas and recollections. Even if someone has taken notes, this does not necessarily mean that his or her notes are more accurate than what you remember of the evidence. If the jury requires assistance as to what any evidence was, the judge can provide such assistance. Do not hesitate to ask.

When the jury is arriving at a verdict, every juror’s opinion counts. It is important to respect the opinions of other jurors and value the different viewpoints that each juror brings to the case. This will help the jury to reach a fair verdict. Let your fellow jurors have a chance to say what they think and why. Do not intimidate anyone else. Equally, do not be afraid to speak up and express your views.

How long it will take to reach a verdict
The jury must reach a unanimous verdict unless the judge tells them otherwise. Do not rush your decision. The court will give you as much time as you need. The people involved in the case deserve your complete attention and your thoughtful deliberations.

It is important to consider all the evidence carefully. All jurors should feel comfortable with the verdict. No juror should feel pressured to change their mind, just because everyone else has reached a different conclusion or because it is taking a long time to decide.

Remember, your decision will have a significant effect on the lives of other people.

Taking breaks
If you are tired and need to take a break, and perhaps a walk, let the foreman/forewoman know and arrangements will be made.

If you need to send a message to your family or friends that you are still on jury service, the tipstaff can organise this for you.

Getting started
There are no set rules about how to conduct your deliberations. However, it is useful at the beginning to decide how you want to proceed and to decide on general guidelines.

The following suggestions may assist:

  • Have each person discuss their initial feelings and what they think about the case.
  • At certain points in the discussion go around the table, one by one, and talk about the case. This will help get opinions from people who are less likely to speak up.
  • Have jurors speak up at any time when they have something to say - provided they do not interrupt other jurors.
  • Try to get everyone to talk by saying something like: 'Does anyone else have anything to add?'.
  • Ask someone to take notes during your deliberations so that you do not forget the important points.
  • Write down key points so everyone can see them.

Discussing the evidence and the law
The deliberations of the jury are secret and there is no set procedure which jurors are bound to follow in reaching their decision. If, however, you would like guidance as to the procedure which you might adopt you should ask the trial judge.

Getting assistance from the court
If at any time a member of the jury has a question or needs clarification about anything, the jury can ask the judge for assistance.

Each member of the jury must understand the judge’s instructions on the law in order to do the job properly. A jury can get assistance from the judge if any juror does not understand something in the judge’s instructions, such as a legal principle or a definition.

If there is any confusion about the law or some of the evidence any juror can ask:

  • for clarification, e.g. whether some word or principle could be further defined or explained,
  • to examine exhibits,
  • to be reminded of evidence, e.g. that the whole or part of the testimony of a witness be provided.

This is done by sending a written request to the judge through the tipstaff. Make sure you don’t discuss anything about the case with the tipstaff.

Put your question or request in writing. Make two copies. Keep one to read out in court, which will need to reassemble. The foreman/forewoman should ask the tipstaff to give the other to the judge.

The verdict
You should spend a reasonable amount of time considering the evidence and the law and listening to each other’s opinions, so that you feel more confident and satisfied with your eventual verdict.

You might vote by raising your hands, by a written ballot, or by a voice ballot. Eventually, a final vote in the jury room will have to be taken, with each of you expressing your verdict openly to the other jurors.

The jury foreman/woman should let the tipstaff know that the jury has reached a verdict (but not what the verdict is). The judge will then call everyone, including the jury, back into the courtroom.

Jury giving verdict
The judge’s associate will ask the foreman/forewoman if the jury have agreed on a verdict and will ask what the verdict is. The foreman/forewoman give the verdict. The judge will then discharge the jury.