Jury directions report released

The VLRC report into jury directions I posted about a couple of weeks ago was tabled in Parliament yesterday. (There was no mention of video replays in cases of erroneous jury charges. Maybe next time.)

As predicted, the VLRC recommends legislative change that will require the leave of the Court of Appeal before consideration of an appeal founded on jury directions, if the point wasn’t raised at the trial.

There are a number of other recommendations for the conduct of jury trials. They include:

  • The development of a document (referred to as an Outline of Charges) produced by the prosecution, approved by the court and to be provided to juries to assist in them in identifying the key areas of dispute in the case;
  • The simplification of evidentiary directions, particularly those in sex offence cases;
  • A general (rather than specific) warning about consciousness of guilt evidence – here referred to as post-offence conduct;
  • Consideration of possible changes to the directions given in relation to propensity (what the new Evidence Act calls tendency evidence);
  • The suggested use of a Jury Guide, a written document prepared by the judge which asks the jury a series of questions, tailored to the specific case and designed to assist them in making the intermediate findings of fact leading to their eventual verdict;
  • The creation of a specialist Public Defenders office similar to the one in NSW.

The VLRC proposes abolishing all the existing common law regarding jury directions, and codifying these rules into one Act.

The Government also intends to release a discussion paper outlining potential reform to the way that jurors are selected before the end of the year.

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