This article revisits the controversial question whether Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires juries to give reasoned verdicts in criminal trials, in the light of the recent decision of the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Taxquet v Belgium (2010). On the face of it, Taxquet reiterates the orthodox position elucidated in previous Strasbourg jurisprudence: the traditional common law jury delivering unreasoned general verdicts is in principle compatible with the right to a fair trial guaranteed by Article 6. On closer examination, however, the Grand Chamber's Judgment contains remarks and suggestions that could be construed as more threatening to the long-term future of the common law jury as it currently exists in the United Kingdom and in other Council of Europe member states. This realisation prompts broader critical reflections on: the authority and competence of the European Court of Human Rights; alternative approaches to interpreting Strasbourg jurisprudence and mediating its impact on domestic law; and the rationality and legitimacy of unreasoned jury verdicts in criminal adjudication.
Tuesday, 7 June 2011
Article 6 and Reasoned Verdicts
The role of juries in criminal trials is probably one of the aspects which most facinates the general public. But how do jury decisions square with a defendant's wish to know on which grounds and considerations he or she has been found guilty? It is a recurring issue, which resurfaced in the case of Taxquet v Belgium last year. Paul Roberts of the University of Nottingham has addressed this topic in an article entitled 'Does Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights Require Reasoned Verdicts in Criminal Trials?', published in the latest issue of the Human Rights Law Review (Vol. 11, No. 2, 2011). This is the abstract: