1.4.1 – Charge: The Role of Judge and Jury

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Serving on a jury may be a completely new experience for some, if not all, of you. To help you perform that role properly, I will now describe your duties as jurors and the procedures that we will follow during the trial. I will also explain to you some of the principles of law that apply in this case.

During and at the end of the trial, I will give you further instructions about the law that applies to this case. You must listen closely to all of these instructions and follow them carefully.

If at any time you have a question about anything I say, please feel free to ask me. You should do this by writing it down, and passing it to my tipstaff, [insert name], who will hand it to me.

Roles of Judge, Jury and Counsel

Members of the jury, you represent one of the most important institutions in our community – the institution of trial by jury. Our legal system guarantees any individual charged with a criminal offence the right to have the case presented against him or her determined by twelve independent and open-minded members of the community, in accordance with the law.

In this case, it is alleged by the prosecution that NOA has committed the offence[s] of [insert offences].[1] S/he has pleaded "not guilty", and so it is for you, and you alone, to decide whether s/he is guilty or not guilty of [this/these] crime[s].

I note that, when referring to the crime[s] that the accused has been charged with, I will sometimes use the words "offence" or "charge" – they all mean the same thing.

In all criminal trials of this type, the court consists of a judge and jury. We are going to be assisted in this case by counsel for the prosecution, [insert prosecutor’s name], and defence counsel, [insert defence counsel’s name].[2] Each of us has a different role to play.

Role of the Jury

It is your role, as the jury, to decide what the facts are in this case. You are the only ones in this court who can make a decision about the facts. You make that decision from all of the evidence given during the trial.

It is also your task to apply the law to the facts that you have found, and by doing that decide whether the accused is guilty or not guilty of the offence[s] charged.

Role of the Judge

It is my role, as the judge, to ensure that this trial is fair and conducted in accordance with the law. I will also explain to you the principles of law that you must apply to make your decision. You must accept and follow all of those directions.

I want to emphasise that it is not my responsibility to decide this case. The verdict that you return has absolutely nothing to do with me. So while you must follow any directions I give you about the law, you are not bound by any comments I may make about the facts.

It is unlikely that I will make any comments about the evidence. If you disagree with any comments I make, you must disregard them. Do not give them any extra weight because I, as the judge, have made them. It is your view of the facts which matters, not mine. You are the judges of facts – you alone.

Role of Counsel

The role of counsel is to present the case for the side for which they appear. [Insert name of prosecutor] presents the charge[s] for the prosecution. [Insert name of defence counsel] appears for the accused, and will represent him/her throughout the trial.[3]

You do not need to accept any comments that counsel may make during their addresses. Of course, if you agree with an argument they present, you can adopt it – in effect, it becomes your own argument. But if you do not agree with their view, you must put it aside. As I have told you, you alone are the judges of the facts.

Similarly, you are not bound by what counsel says about the law. I am the judge of the law, and it is what I tell you about the law that matters. If counsel says something different from what I say about the law, you must ignore it and follow my directions.


[1] This charge is drafted for use in cases involving one accused. If the case involves multiple accused, it will need to be modified accordingly.

[2] This sentence will need to be modified if the accused is unrepresented.

[3] This section will need to be modified if the accused is unrepresented.

Last updated: 17 May 2019

See Also

1.4 – The Role of Judge and Jury