Author Lily Trimboli
Published September 2008
Report Type Crime and Justice Bulletin No. 119
Subject Court processes and delay; Juries
Keywords juror survey, juror understanding, judicial instructions, beyond reasonable doubt, judges' summing-up

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The aim of the current study was to obtain information on juror understanding of judicial instructions and other aspects of the criminal trial process in order to assist the NSW LRC in its deliberations.


A total of 1,225 jurors from 112 juries completed a short, structured questionnaire regarding their selfreported understanding of judicial instructions, judicial summing-up of trial evidence and other aspects of the trial process. These jurors heard District Court or Supreme Court trials held between mid-July 2007 and February 2008 in six courthouses in Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle. The survey found that the vast majority of jurors self-report that they understand the phrase 'beyond reasonable doubt' to mean either 'sure' or 'almost sure' that the person is guilty; perceived that the judge's summing-up of the trial evidence was 'about the right length'; understood either 'everything' or 'nearly everything' that the judge said during his/her summing-up of the trial evidence; believed that 'in his/her summing-up of evidence, the judge generally used words [that were] easy to understand'; and 'understood completely' the judge's instructions on the law or 'understood most things the judge said'. The limitations of the research are discussed, particularly, that the survey relied on the jurors' self-reported understanding of judicial instructions and language, rather than objective assessments of such understanding; and that less than half the trials held during the data collection period participated in the survey.

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