Should a jury have access to criminal records?Under British and Australian laws a jury in a criminal case has no access to information about the defendant's past criminal record. This protects the person who is being accused of the crime.
Some lawyers have suggested that this practice should be changed and that a jury should be given all the past facts before they reach their decision about the case.
Do you agree or disagree?
The debate surrounding jury predisposition is one of the most charged in legal fields. Taking their stances, British and Australian laws state that a jury in a criminal case must be denied access to the defendant's past criminal record, supposedly protecting the accused person. A number of lawyers believe that this policy should be changed, as a jury should be given all information in the past before agreeing on a jurisdiction. Considering the merits and drawbacks of the proposal, I disagree with this opinion.
First of all, there is little reason to risk the jury becoming discriminating and predisposed. As the jury is picked from the community, there's a chance that they are biased, and have friends or relatives affected by certain crimes. Unlike judges, they are less trained on balancing emotions and facts - making them more prone to judge based on personal reasons rather than presented evidence. For example, a dad with a molested child is very unlikely to empathize with a convicted molester, however innocent the latter may be in the present case. Moreover, criminal records may be long, complex, and even uncomprehensive. The resulting failure of understanding the records can even further distort the case. As we rely on the jury to reach a socially accepted consensus, we also rely on them being normal, sensible people, and that comes with flaws.
Furthermore, the evidence given by the plaintiff and the defendant should be enough for judgement. If the jury needs to rely on past records to judge, the evidence and the arguments are most likely incomplete and illogical. Nowadays, forensic technology and developed psychological science give us far better grounds to assess a criminal case than ever before. Combined with the ubiquitous presence of social media and CCTV, there should be more than enough evidence to accurately convict a criminal. Failure to procure such proof by the prosecutor should not lead to unfair penalties.
Opponents of this viewpoint may argue that smart criminal with connections may evaporate conclusive evidence that can be used against them, even though they are actually guilty. I agree with this to a certain extent. To solve the problem, we can permit the occasional access to a person's criminal records if they contain charges similar to the ones being pressed. After all, repeated disrespect for the law can be a guilt indicator.
In conclusion, I support the above policy of UK and Australian criminal law. The jury are human beings after all, therefore distractions should be limited as much as possible for a just case.
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