Majority Verdicts

In the second reading speech, Attorney General Bob Debus, in justifying the change notwithstanding contrary advice from the NSW Law Reform Commission, stated that “the Government's view is that the problems surrounding hung juries can no longer be ignored.”

Majority verdicts were introduced in NSW in 2006. In the second reading speech, Attorney General Bob Debus, in justifying the change notwithstanding contrary advice from the NSW Law Reform Commission, stated that “the Government's view is that the problems surrounding hung juries can no longer be ignored.”

Section 55F requires that the jury at that time be of no less than 11 persons, and permits only 1 jury in the minority. In other words, in a jury of 12, the verdict must be agreed by 11 jurors, and in a jury of 11, the verdict must be agreed by 10 of those jurors. In this way, in the words of the Attorney, the change negates “the effect of the so-called "rogue juror" who may refuse to rationally engage in the jury deliberations.

The legislation requires that no less than 8 hours of deliberation have passed before the majority verdict direction can be given. Moreover, the elapsed time must be “reasonable having regard to the nature and complexity of the criminal proceedings”. That second criteria requires careful attention, and cannot be assumed to have been met merely because 8 hours have passed.

 

RJS

RJS v Regina [2007] NSWCCA 241

“The first criticism that is made by the Appellant of the trial judge in this respect is that his Honour did not in fact determine what “period of time” for deliberation was “reasonable having regard to the nature and complexity of the criminal proceedings… The second criticism the Appellant makes is that his Honour failed to examine any juror on oath and, accordingly, could not have been “satisfied ... that it is unlikely that the jurors will reach a unanimous verdict after further deliberation” within s55F(2)(b). The Crown conceded that both these errors were made…”