What happens when a jury cannot reach a unanimous verdict?

One of the hallmarks of our criminal justice system is for an accused to be entitled to have their matter determined by a jury of their peers.

A jury is empanelled from a selection of men and women who are called upon to perform jury service. Once empanelled the jury takes an oath or affirmation that they will give a true verdict according to the evidence.

The finding of guilty or not guilty by a jury requires a unanimous verdict. That is, all 12 jurors must be in agreement. All 12 members of the jury had to have reached the same conclusion concerning the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt before a conviction could be returned.

An amendment to the Jury Act 1977 provided for “majority verdicts” in criminal trials for state offences. The legislation provides for a majority verdict in the following circumstances:

  • where a unanimous verdict has not been reached after the jurors have deliberated for a period of at least 8 hours, and the court considers that reasonable time has been given considering the nature and complexity of the case; and

  • the court is satisfied after questioning one or more of the jurors on oath that it is unlikely a unanimous verdict will be reached.

    Then the jury is given the option of returning a verdict agreed to by 11 jurors out of the 12.

    Only a unanimous verdict or a majority verdict which comprises only one dissenting view, can return a verdict of guilty or not guilty. In the event that there is more than one dissenting jury person, a “hung jury” will be declared and no verdict will be returned. This, depending on the prosecuting party, will usually result in a second trial. In some instances, as seen of late, there may be a result in the second trial or alternatively, a further hung jury. A second re-trial or third trial will only proceed in exceptional circumstances.

    Brydens Lawyers has an expert Criminal Law Division available to assist in relation to all and any criminal matters. If you have been or are likely to be charged by the police with a criminal matter, then urgent and expert legal advice is required. Contact Brydens Lawyers without delay on 1800 848 848 or at brydens.com.au. At Brydens Lawyers – #WE DO criminal cases.