Courtroom scene
Most people in England and Wales believe that more diverse juries are fairer, yet juries remain extremely lacking in diversity

New data from researchers at the University of Birmingham raises critical questions about whether the public in England and Wales see juries as fair and just, particularly to racial minorities.

Experts surveyed 1,000 people and found that most (61%) believe that more diverse juries are fairer, yet juries in England and Wales remain extremely lacking in diversity.

The researchers found that an overwhelming majority of people in England and Wales (96%) consider jury service important and (87%) would serve on a jury if summoned.

Our study raises important questions about whether the public in England and Wales see juries as fair and just, particularly to racial minorities. Juries in England and Wales remain extremely lacking in diversity - a major problem in the Dea-John Reid case. Another problem was that the family’s concerns about racial bias on the jury were never investigated.

Dr Tara Lai Quinlan - School of Law, University of Birmingham

Yet, nearly half of respondents of the survey designed by Dr Tara Lai Quinlan, from the University’s School of Law admitted that they do not know how to become eligible for jury service. And more than 50% of respondents do not believe that the criminal justice system in England and Wales is fair, and 40% have little or no trust in juries.

Publication of the findings coincides with the third anniversary of the death of 14-year-old Black schoolboy Dea-John Reid, who was racially abused and stabbed to death during broad daylight in Kingstanding, Birmingham on 31 May, 2021. Dea-John’s family and friends marked the anniversary with a vigil in Kingstanding.

Dr Quinlan commented: “The attack on Dea-John was all caught on CCTV. Yet in May 2022, a jury with no Black members acquitted most of the perpetrators and only convicted the main aggressor of the lesser charge of manslaughter, for which they received only six years imprisonment.

“Our study raises important questions about whether the public in England and Wales see juries as fair and just, particularly to racial minorities. Juries in England and Wales remain extremely lacking in diversity - a major problem in the Dea-John Reid case. Another problem was that the family’s concerns about racial bias on the jury were never investigated.”

The researchers found that more than 90% of respondents in the survey believe that discrimination on juries should be reported to trial judges and properly investigated. Yet no mechanism under current law allows judges to do so.

Dr Katharina Karcher, who worked on the study with Dr Quinlan commented: “The survey findings indicate that there is a vital need to build greater trust in juries. Improving ethnic diversity on juries to make them more representative of the communities they serve and introducing measures to identify and tackle discrimination on juries could play a vital role in this process.”