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Greens oppose Goff's jury changes

22 January, 2004

Greens oppose Goff's jury changes

Proposed changes to the jury system are a cost-cutting measure that would do little to enhance real justice, Green MP Nandor Tanczos said today.

Nandor, the Green Justice spokesperson, said the Greens would support Justice Minister Phil Goff's seeking cabinet approval for increasing the allowances received by jurors but question whether his proposals for majority verdicts would help reduce the level of juror intimidation and hung juries.

"A change to majority verdicts are a cost-cutting measure at the price of justice," said Nandor. "11 to one jury decisions would mean faster justice, but not necessarily better justice.

"A majority system would increase the chances of unsafe convictions because people who have strong doubts won't have a chance to be heard. It will be too easy for the majority to ignore the concerns of one juror because they want to finish and go home.

"The reality is that hung juries result more from complex cases with a high degree of technical information to digest. Jurors simply aren't paid sufficiently to want to hang around long enough to understand that information," he said.

Nandor said he supported increasing the entitlements for jurors as it would encourage greater participation from a wider cross-section of society. He was concerned that many people would rather risk a fine for skipping jury service than potentially lose their pay for a few months.

"Jury service is a civic duty that people should not be penalised for doing. Few people could afford sitting on a complex court case that could last months.

"It's important that we encourage everyone to participate in civic life, not just those who can afford to put their lives on hold," said Nandor.

ENDS

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