A few months ago, I went to a seminar about jury issues that was given by Judge Haesler SC of the District Court. One of the topics was the procedure which has to be followed before a judge can accept a majority verdict. Majority verdicts are still controversial and are a departure from the common law position of unanimity which has existed since the 14th century. In times gone by, the trial judge didn’t have power to discharge a jury if they were unable to agree. So what would happen? Apparently:

In England this extended… to putting the jurors, if they were unable to reach agreement, in a cart and driving them to the county boundary following the assize judge on his travels to the next county. There, they were left ‘”without meat or drinke, fire or candle’ until they were starved or frozen into  agreement..?’ Cheatle v The Queen (1993) 177 CLR541 a 551 citing Coke, Institutes, 19th ed (1832), vol 2, 227.b.[e].”

That got me thinking that it sounds like a technique which could have been appropriately utilised in some of the more difficult mediations that I have attended. I don’t think it will take off though.

Creative commons acknowledgement for the photograph.

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