The Origins, Early History and Evolution of the English Criminal Trial Jury


  • Sanjeev Anand



This article presents an historical account of the English criminal trial jury from its birth in the thirteenth century, as a largely self-informing institution that replaced the ordeals, to the nineteenth century, where the passivity of the modern trial jury became firmly established as a result of the influence of legal counsel and the development of the adversarial criminal trial. The expansive timeline that is assessed reveals that public distrust of the motives and competency of jurors is a recurrent theme and not simply a modern phenomenon. However, the historical evidence suggests that criminal trial jurors tended not to suffer from the deficiencies attributed to them by some commentators. Because the jury has undergone significant transformations in the past and survived, modern day proponents of the criminal trial jury could argue that it is capable of continuing to accommodate significant changes to the practices that govern its conduct. For those inclined towards the reform of the English criminal trial jury, some of the features noted by the author that have been discarded over time may be considered deserving of revival.