Photo courtesy of the Border Mail, Wangaratta 2016.
I am a Law Institute Accredited Specialist in Criminal Law and have been for years.
Over a long period I have appeared as counsel for the accused in some of Australia’s most sensational criminal cases.
In the County Court and the Supreme Court, if the accused pleads not guilty the case is decided by a jury of 12. A judge presides and tells the jury the law but the jury will make the decision.
In the County Court and the Supreme Court, if the accused pleads guilty there is no jury and the judge hears the prosecution allegations and the defence submissions and imposes a penalty.
In a jury trial, if the jury finds the accused not guilty, all parties leave the court. If the jury finds the accused guilty, the judge hears prosecution submissions and then defence submissions and then imposes a penalty.
Usually, cases which are being dealt with by a jury are very serious. Cases such as murder, rape, sexual procurement and sexual assaults on children can only be dealt with by a jury or a judge hearing a plea.
However, other cases which would normally be dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court can be dealt with by a jury if the accused elects. A good example would be theft of a car. This is an indictable offence usually dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court but the accused can insist on a jury trial.
It is my view that juries are very fair and in line ball cases a lot of people will be better off to be in front of a jury than in front of a Magistrate.
When you choose a solicitor to represent you, you should ask that lawyer how many times the lawyer has personally addressed a jury. That is, stood up in front of a jury as counsel and said “Good morning jurors, I appear for the accused”.
Any solicitor can delegate a trial to a barrister. The reality is that very few solicitors have actually appeared as counsel in a jury trial. I have appeared as counsel in jury trials over a long period.
Remember, if I was to brief a barrister, you then have a barrister that I have selected as experienced and able and you would have two experienced practitioners to help you in what will probably be the biggest crisis in your life.
Jury trials are won a lot of the time in the office before the trial. It is necessary to get to know the client and often the client’s family, finding out all about the various background matters which can be very important in bringing a not guilty verdict.
Witnesses need to be considered. It may be necessary to engage an expert who can give evidence that certain matters make the prosecution case weak.
Reputation witnesses can be called to tell the jury that the accused is known to be the kind of person unlikely to commit this crime.
Prior convictions need to be very carefully considered in jury cases. If they exist a simple blunder by the defence can lead to the jury hearing all about other matters that exist in the past.
A lack of prior convictions is a very big plus, hence the jury can be told all about the lack of priors. Cooperation is also another matter which can be very helpful for a jury to take on board. Cooperation often means nothing to hide, happy to help.
If you are about to front up to a jury trial, you should give me a ring. The first consultation will be free, and my legal fees are regarded as very reasonable. You will be given an exact quote, not a mysterious who knows what the fee will be answer.
At this first consultation you should be able to safely determine the future conduct of your trial.