Innocent until proven guilty

Yes we've all heard this phrase before and most people know that it is the foundation of the way the law works in many countries, including the UK. But up until I did my jury service I hadn't really ever considered the implications of this.

Just before going off to deliberate over the verdict of our first trial, myself and my fellow jurors were reminded about the defendant being "innocent until proven guilty". This meant that unless we could be convinced that there was enough proof that he was guilty then we had to find him not guilty. There was no room for 'probably guilty' - unless we were convinced that he had definitely committed the crime, then he would walk free, an innocent man.

Interestingly too, I discovered that it is the responsibility of the Crown to prove the charges and convince the jury of a defendant's guilt. The defence does not have to prove the defendant innocent - their job is mainly to disprove any claims that the prosecution are making.

I have wondered about our current justice system since undertaking jury service. Yes, 'Innocent until proven guilty' is necessary to help protect people who may well have not committed a crime at all. But on the other hand, it could be felt that the defendant has most likely committed a crime, but if not enough proof can be found, then he may get away with it.

Also, having been a member of a jury, I can say that it is a scary prospect to have people's lives in your own hands. The decisions that you make will change people's lives immensely. A randomly selected jury is a good thing, but surely sometimes cases can be swayed either way depending on the mix of people in a jury. Most jury members will have a limited knowledge of the law and sometimes can feel quite in the dark about matters. Perhaps each jury should have an independent legal advisor attached to them, whom they could consult during their deliberations. Or perhaps there should be 3 separate juries for each trial. Each jury reaches their own verdicts, then the final verdict would be whatever the majority of juries decided. I'm sure that sometimes, often, juries get it wrong. Perhaps this would make the result more accurate.

Or perhaps we should just go the way that everything seems to be going at the moment. Perhaps we should stage trials on television and make the verdict the result of a phone vote?!