You should spend about 40 minutes on this task.
Under the British and Australian laws a jury in a criminal case has no access to information about the defendant’s past criminal record. This protects the person who is being accused of the crime. Some lawyers have suggested that this practice should be changed and that a jury should be given all the past facts before they reach their decision about the case. Discuss both these points of views and give your own opinion.
Give reasons for your answer and include any relevant examples from your own knowledge or experience.
Write at least 250 words.
It is believed, and rightly so, that a person learns from his past and makes his future bright by correcting the mistakes committed in the past. Due to this, a person should not be judged, as a whole, by his past deeds only. Due the weightage must be accorded to the present circumstances in which the person commits an act, which may either give a positive or a negative result.
Different nations across the globe have a different set of rules in respect of criminal cases that come across the jury of such nation. The jury under the British and Australian laws has no access as regards the past criminal record of a defendant. This provides an edge to the defendant, as the jury comes to a decision in a vacuum. Moreover, in absence of previous criminal records the jury does not arrive at a decision due to any biasedness or pre-conceived notion about the character of the defendant. This situation, undoubtedly, favours the defendant.
However, another school of thought believes that the jury must be aware of the past criminal records of the defendant. According to the believers of this school, an access to the past criminal records, actually provides a factual, realistic and reasonable platform to the jury to deliver their judgment. The past records, as a matter of fact, provides the insight into nature, character, upbringing, social level, mental health and numerous other factors of the defendant. With the help of these tools, it becomes easy and logical for the jury to read the subconscious mind of such defendant. Moreover, it also facilitates the jury to take a reasoned, well defined, appropriate, conscious, deliberate, judicious and prudent decision.
As a matter of fact, in the recent case of a known gangster that made headlines in the criminal magazine, The ABC, it was only due to the knowledge of modus operandi of the said gangster in past records, that the jury overruled the theory of reasonable doubt that was illusioned by the advocate of the defendant.
In short, in my opinion, the jury must be made aware of the past records to provide them the opportunity to have a full 360-degree view of the defendant, as a whole.
[ Written by – Neeraj Mehra ]