The Christchurch Civic Crèche Case

Law Reform Index

Unanimous Jury Verdicts

This page last updated Jan 31 2005 -

2004-1113 - Dominion Post - Juror too late to change her mind
A distraught juror rang Napier District Court the morning after finding a man guilty of rape, asking if she could change her mind, the Court of Appeal has been told. Her belated misgivings did not sway the court. In a second conversation with the district court employee, the juror said she thought some jurors had made a hasty decision on the rape charge to "get out of the place" after considering the case till midnight.

2004-1025 - Evening Standard - Common sense and the law
Editorial -
Rumblings over planned moves to limit the right to trial by jury, bring in majority verdicts in place of unanimous decisions and change the rule against double jeopardy, are showing little sign of going away, judging by what a leading crimimal lawyer had to say to the parliamentary committee which is considering the Criminal Procedure Bill. QC Donald Stevens joined the Law Society and other high-profile lawyers in opposing the changes, hailed by Justice Minister Phil Goff as together making up one of the most important recent pieces of legislation on criminal procedures. He's right about that, if the vigorous reactions engendered by the proposals are anything to go by. Yet the Greens are the only political party to oppose the bill.

2004-0909 - Dominion Post - 'Rogue juror' tells of pressure to vote guilty
A man who caused a hung jury in a rape trial because he believed the accused was innocent has spoken out against plans to end unanimous verdicts. Gordon Ansley told Parliament's law and order committee he had been a so-called "rogue juror", the one of 12 who held out for a not-guilty verdict. At present, criminal verdicts must be unanimous, but the committee is considering a move to majority verdicts as low as 10 to two after concern at the rise in hung juries. The Law Commission has linked the increase to rogue jurors, who refuse to take part in deliberations or to change their position in the face of overwhelming arguments.

2004-0909 - Dominion Post - Call to ban police from vetting jurors
by Martin Kay - Police should be banned from using the Wanganui Computer to vet potential jurors in trials, MPs considering a bill that radically transforms the criminal justice system have been told. Law Society criminal law committee member Greg King told Parliament's law and order committee that police regularly checked the criminal backgrounds of jury panels before trials and passed the information to prosecutors.

2004-0629 - Evening Standard - Justice changes need hard look
Editorial - It seems that proposed wide-ranging changes to the system of trial by jury, which were flagged by Justice Minister Phil Goff some months ago, are at least in some respects deeply controversial, as the minister himself has said he expects them to be. It appears at least two of the city's more seasoned defence lawyers will be beating a path to the door of the select committee which will be hearing what people think about the bill.

2004-0626 - The Press - Chch legal experts find little joy in law reforms
by Amanda Warren - Christchurch lawyers have panned Government moves to reform the criminal justice system. The Criminal Procedures Bill, introduced to Parliament this week, proposes the abandonment of unanimous jury verdicts in favour of 11-1 verdicts; allowing prosecutors to opt out of jury hearings if there is evidence of juror intimidation; and changing double-jeopardy rules to allow a retrial if compelling new evidence comes to light. However, Christchurch lawyers argue many of the proposed changes are unnecessary.

2004-0623 - The Press - Accused may forfeit right to jury trial
by Tracy Watkins - Accused criminals could be stripped of their right to a trial by their peers if there are fears of juries being intimidated. The measure is in legislation introducing sweeping reforms of the jury system, including the abandonment of unanimous jury verdicts in favour of an 11-1 verdict.

2004-0623 - Evening Standard - Local lawyers unimpressed with looming changes
by David Eames - Proposed sweeping changes to the system of trial by jury have left two senior Palmerston North lawyers with serious misgivings. The Criminal Proceedings Bill, introduced to Parliament yesterday and due for a first reading next week, calls for the abolition of unanimous jury verdicts, changes to the rules governing depositions hearings, changes to jury-selection procedures, and a revamp of the double-jeopardy law.

2004-0623 - Dominion Post - Right to jury trial restricted in bill
by Tracy Watkins - Accused criminals could lose their right to a trial by their peers if there are fears of juries being intimidated. The measure is in government legislation introducing sweeping reforms of the jury system, including the abandonment of unanimous jury verdicts in favour of an 11-1 verdict. Parliament will vote on it for the first time next week.

2004-0623 - Dominion Post - Majority verdict bill introduced
by Tracy Watkins - Unanimous jury verdicts could be abandoned next year after the Government's introduction of legislation that overhauls the jury trial system. The legislation does away with the long-established need for a unanimous verdict from all 12 jurors before anyone can be convicted of a crime. It says an 11-1 verdict is enough.

2004-0226 - Dominion Post - Timely spotlight on jury duty
by Robyn McLean - As New Zealand debates the abolition of unanimous verdicts for jury trials, a dozen comedians bring a judicial classic to the International Festival stage. Robyn McLean reports. It's a serious undertaking for 12 comedians, but Owen O'Neill was confident they could do it. He says the idea to produce a play of 12 Angry Men came after he had watched the film version starring Henry Fonda.

2004-0131 - Waikato Times - Jury change
by Steve Hoefsloot - 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.

2004-0127 - NZ Herald - Jury majority decision long overdue
Editorial - It speaks volumes for our standards of criminal justice that it is taking so long to dispense with the principle that jury verdicts should be unanimous. It took six years of research on jury trials before the Law Commission recommended that majority verdicts of 11-1 should be permitted. The commission's report came in 2001 and in August that year Justice Minister Phil Goff announced legislation was imminent. Last week he made the same announcement. He says he will introduce a bill this year.

2004-0127 - Daily News - Defendants' rights balanced against those of the public
Editorial - Lawyers and cynics argue that the Government's push towards majority jury verdicts is more about saving money than improving the delivery of justice. However, one needs to be only mildly cynical to equally suggest that the lawyers' concern is more about a potential cut in court work than maintaining the quality of justice. The Government's advisory group, the Law Commission, says 13% of High Court cases and around 8% of District Court hearings result in hung juries -- meaning the 12 jurors cannot reach the total agreement required for conviction, and give up the argument.

2004-0126 - Waikato Times - Jury change won't guarantee justice
Editorial - Changes to the jury system allowing majority verdicts would seem to be the ideal answer to a rise in the number of hung juries. When a jury can't make up its mind over the guilt or innocence of an accused person it is a nuisance to everyone. And huge expense when even a minor trial can involve judge, lawyers and witnesses over a considerable period. If the whole procedure has to be repeated because one or more jurors aren't able to make a decision then it can seem to be a shocking waste of money. It also slows the wheels of justice for everyone else.

2004-0126 - Timaru Herald - Juries not perfect
Ediorial -
If the jury system was perfect, there would be no need for Justice Minister Phil Goff's proposal to allow majority decisions. The juries would always get the verdict right, and they would be unanimous in their view without any pressure being applied from inside or outside the jury room. The move stems from a Law Commission report which found 13 per cent of jury trials in 2000 resulted in a hung jury. This was a high proportion and not necessarily reflective of complex cases where it was difficult to accept one set of evidence over another.

2004-0124 - Evening Standard - Juries must be safeguarded
Editorial - It is understandable, if less than surprising, that widespread misgivings have been expressed over the Government's plans to change our centuries-old jury system and institute majority verdicts in place of unanimous decisions. Indeed, one defence lawyer went so far as to say that allowing majority verdicts could dangerously undermine public confidence in our justice system. She suggested that rather than change to majority verdicts, other ways be looked at to overhaul the system because of public disquiet over so many verdicts -- people found guilty but doubts persisting and people found not guilty when there is strong evidence that they were.

2004-0123 - The Press - A sensible decision
Editorial - The proposal announced by the Minister of Justice, Phil Goff, to allow majority verdicts in criminal trials is a sensible one. They have been used for decades in other jurisdictions without problems and they should help to reduce an unacceptably high level of hung juries.

2004-0122 - The Press - National, ACT back jury trial changes
by Colin Espiner - Widespread political support for majority jury verdicts should see a change to a fundamental part of the justice system this year. The Government has reintroduced plans to scrap unanimous jury verdicts in favour of an 11-1 majority and to allow trial by judge alone in some long or complex cases. The move comes after Labour backed off the move in 2001, following opposition from the legal community.

2004-0122 - One News - Jury trial changes planned.
Unanimous jury decisions may become a thing of the past under a new law to be introduced by the Justice Minister. Goff says it is intended to reduce the high number of hung juries and to prevent so-called rogue jurors unduly influencing a verdict. Under the new legislation, juries could be removed from trials altogether if the case is considered too complex for people to understand.

2004-0122 - NZ Herald - Majority rules in jury law change
by Helen Tunnah - A rogue or sole juror will not be able to hold out against a person being convicted of a crime under jury law changes being introduced next year. The new law will scrap the centu
ries-old tradition that all 12 jurors must agree on a verdict. Instead, an 11-1 vote will be allowed. Justice Minister Phil Goff says the change will reduce the growing number of hung juries and stop organised crime and gangs intimidating jurors.