Written directions

Given the ever increasing complexity of summings up, there are persuasive arguments for ensuring that juries have written material to reinforce the directions given.

Directions of law given in a summing up are, by their very nature, complex. Those directions are delivered to jury members with little or no experience in the law, who are usually unaccustomed to absorbing large quantities of information delivered verbally.

Given the ever increasing complexity of summings up, there are persuasive arguments for ensuring that juries have written material to reinforce the directions given. The authorities warn, however, of the dangers of written directions (which are by their very nature selective) emphasizing certain directions over other directions.

Moreover, summings up are a verbal process. It is important, as Trevascus v R [2021] NSWCCA 104 and Bourke (a pseudonym) v R [2021] NSWCCA 145 emphasize, that any written directions supplement, and do not replace, verbal directions.

 

Petroff

Petroff v R (1980) 2 A Crim R 101

“Even for the moment assuming that there were no precedents for his Honour's actions and, to use the words of the appellant's counsel, that the procedure adopted was a "grave departure from practice ... " it would offend my common sense to think that in all circumstances a trial judge should not be permitted to assist a jury in his summing up with a document used to encapsulate his oral summing up and as an aide memoire to them.”