Criminal and Civil Cases

Juries are usually used in criminal cases (the trial of someone suspected of having broken a law) but they can also be employed in a limited number of types of civil cases (disputes between two parties).

Despite the main purpose of juries being to deem a criminal defendant guilty or not guilty, criminal cases decided by jury only account for a very small percentage of criminal cases (around 1%). Most criminal cases are heard in the magistrates’ courts.

In civil cases, juries are usually called upon for defamation cases – disputes that pertain to libel, slander, false imprisonment and fraud.

Juries attending criminal cases sit in the Crown Court, whereas civil cases with juries take place in a county court or the High Court.

As well as deciding whether or not the claimant has won the case, the jury will need to decide what damages will be awarded.

A judge can choose to proceed with the trial without a jury if he feels the case is too complex.

Death cases at the Coroners’ Court

In addition to civil and criminal cases, a jury can be called to the Coroners’ Court, where their responsibility will be to decide the cause of a death. These cases require a jury of 7 to 11 jurors.

Types of death which a jury can be called to investigate include:

  • Deaths in prison or custody
  • Deaths caused by industrial accidents
  • Cases involving public health and safety.

Formerly (before 1977) a coroner was obliged to summon a jury in cases of death caused by a road accident and suspected homicide, but this is no longer the case.