The Australian Capital Territory plans to implement legislation that penalizes jurors who engage in independent research.
The previous year, the case of Bruce Lehrmann fell apart in the ACT supreme court due to a juror’s independent investigation and introduction of external materials into the courtroom.
Despite being repeatedly warned, the juror continued with their actions, resulting in the trial being abandoned. However, they did not face any consequences as the chief justice, Lucy McCallum, found that there was no law or punishment for this offense in the ACT.
The attorney general for the ACT, Shane Rattenbury, announced that the government will implement new regulations for juries. These rules could result in a maximum punishment of two years in prison and fines for any juror misconduct.
On Thursday, Rattenbury stated that this violation is meant to explicitly inform jurors not to conduct their own investigations.
According to Rattenbury, the suggested addition to the law would cover various actions, such as online searches. He also stated that jurors jeopardize the possibility of a fair trial by conducting their own investigations.
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He stated that any information that has not been presented in court, openly discussed, and examined by all parties could jeopardize the fairness of the trial.
The ACT government plans to permit majority verdicts, aligning with other jurisdictions. This change would enable a decision to be reached by 11 out of 12 jurors, aiming to prevent deadlocked juries.
According to Rattenbury, the goal is not to weaken the criteria or demands, but rather to allow for a successful trial even if one juror has a differing opinion, without the need for a complete retrial.
Lehrmann faced charges for allegedly raping Brittany Higgins at Parliament House. Despite consistently denying the allegations and pleading not guilty, his first trial was called off due to juror misconduct. As a result, prosecutors chose not to pursue a second trial.