In NSW and Queensland, the requirement for juries to deliberate for eight hours before the possibility of a majority 11-1 verdict is longer than in all other states and territories. This extended deliberation period means that juries with a single hold-out can be repeatedly urged to "try harder" for a unanimous verdict, with judges closely monitoring the clock.
A proposed overhaul of legislation in NSW aims to halve the minimum deliberation time in an effort to reduce the number of hung juries and associated trial expenditures. Critics, however, argue that there is insufficient evidence to support the belief that these objectives would be achieved or that such changes are necessary.
The NSW Council of Civil Liberties said fewer than one in 50 District Court trials ended in a hung jury - a "tolerable" figure and even indicative of a "healthy trial process".
"A hung jury trial should not be considered a failed trial (unlike an aborted trial), but rather a by-product of a complex event where jurors have taken their duties seriously in the consideration of the evidence and directions," it said in its submission to a NSW parliamentary inquiry.
"It will be inevitable that jurors (in a small number of trials) will reach a different conclusion about the guilt or innocence of an accused."
The prolonging of deliberations impacting on juror wellbeing would be better addressed by improving juror support and directions, the council said.
"Jury deliberations ... should not be made shorter for the sake of an unknown and speculative reduction of expenditure on resources and hung juries," it said.
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