- For Teachers
You should spend 40 minutes on this topic.
Under British and Australia laws a jury in a criminal case has no access to information about the defendant's past criminal record. This protects the person who is being accused of the crime.
Some lawyers have suggested that this practice should be changed and that a jury should be given all the past facts before they reach their decision about the case.
Do you agree or disagree? Give reasons for your answer.
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge and experience.
In many countries, during a trial process, juries believe that they should have access to a defendantís past criminal records. In criminal cases, however, the juries are not allowed to do that under British and Australian laws. I believe that the information of a person being accused should not be provided before a verdict has been reached as I will now explain.
Firstly, it is crucial that juries reach their judgement neutrally. Judging a trial based on the evidence only involving a crime is fair for defendants. If the juries know their previous criminal records and discover that the defendants have committed a crime before, then the juries may believe that it is more likely to happen again. Therefore the juries may be easily influence by bias and reach a wrong decision.
Moreover, the defendantís past criminal record should be kept private. Nobody would like anyone to correct them from their past issues. Although the person being accused of the crime had convicted a crime before, however, s/he has already been sentenced and had a sanction for their faults. Therefore, the private criminal issue should be a right for the defendant to preserve.
Admittedly, in some serious criminal cases, the defendantís past record is very important if the accused person has committed the same crime again or related to the previous criminal records. According to the trial it aides the juries to decide whether the punishment should be severe or not. Although it is useful to consider the defendantís past record, it is arguable that s/he should be judged accurately and fairly without biased decision.
To summarise, I believe that juries should judge the defendant by recent evidence without an access to their past criminal records, which can affect the verdict and invade defendantís private issues.