The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

Law Reform Index

Unanimous Jury Verdicts

Waikato Times
January 31 2004

Jury Change
Letter to the Editor
by Steve Hoefsloot, Hamilton

Alarm bells should ring over Phil Goff's proposed change from unanimous verdicts to majority verdicts for jury trials.

The present system predates the Magna Carta and prevailed in spite of wars and dictatorships, revolutions and colonisations. It stood as a bastion against the powers of kings, presidents, governors and states.

Now comes the New Zealand justice minister, peeved that verdicts do not always go the prosecutor's way, blaming it on rogue jurors, gangs and organised crime intimidation, and wanting to change the system to an 11-1 verdict.

I suppose if that doesn't give satisfactory results, we will whittle it down further.

Government courts have interfered enough; they tampered with jury make-up, and directions to jury. A jury is made up of 12 peers of the accused, chosen without bias. It sits in absolute judgment of the law and the evidence and gives its verdict according to its conscience.

I suspect that there are more hung juries because the odd individual juror is brave enough to say, "This law is wrong, this is not justice", and votes accordingly. This courageous juror is all that stands between us and the tyranny of the state.

Changing it presents a danger to each and every one of us.