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The Jury Directions Act 2013 reformed the manner in which a judge determines the directions required in a criminal trial and the content of the summing up.
Under the Act, the judge must ask the parties to identify the alternative offences, modes of complicity, elements and defences in issue and what directions are necessary in relation to the evidence or the issues. The judge must give any directions that are requested, unless there are good reasons for not doing so. The judge must also give any directions required under an Act and directions on general matters relevant to all trials. However, the judge must not give directions on any other matters, unless there are substantial and compelling reasons to do so. The residual obligation to give directions on evidence or issues which are not sought raises the threshold on when directions are necessary compared to the common law.
The Act also removes the need to summarise the evidence or the parties’ addresses. Instead, the judge must refer to the way in which the parties put their cases, and must identify so much of the evidence as he or she considers necessary to help the jury determine the issues in the trial. In explaining the law relevant to the issues, the judge can give directions in the form of factual questions which embed the relevant law and spell out the legal consequences of the various factual issues in a trial.
The Act applied to trials commencing on or after 1 July 2013.
On 29 June 2015, the Jury Directions Act 2013 was replaced by the Jury Directions Act 2015. The 2015 Act preserves most of the principles from the 2013 Act and includes new evidentiary directions. There are small changes in the operation of the residual obligation and the obligation on parties to identify issues and request directions, which are described below. The 2015 Act applies to all trials that commence on or after 29 June 2015.
On 1 October 2017, the Jury Directions and Other Acts Amendment Act 2017 commenced. Among other changes, the amending Act applies the Jury Directions Act 2015 to certain criminal proceedings that do not involve a jury, introduced a number of new evidentiary directions, and amended the law in relation to perseverance and majority directions. These amendments apply to all trials that commence on or after 1 October 2017.
Requests for Directions
Directions Request Process
Residual Obligation to Give Directions Not Requested
[R]equires a state of affirmative satisfaction by the trial judge that the direction is of such central importance to one or more issues in the trial that, if the accused is convicted, a failure to give the direction will have occasioned a miscarriage of justice. If the circumstances, considered objectively, did not require such a conclusion, the failure to give the direction would not have amounted to an error in the trial. The trial judge, applying formulations such as that of Barwick CJ in R v Storey, must be satisfied that in the absence of the direction, the appellant will have lost a ‘real chance of acquittal’, or that had the direction been given ‘a reasonable jury might well have acquitted.’ (see also Tukuafu v R  VSCA 345, ; Horton v R  VSCA 319 per Redlich JA).
Part 3, the Common Law and Matters Not Raised
Exceptions to Request for Directions Process
Obligation to Correct Prohibited Statements or Suggestions
Application to hearings not involving a jury
 Where there is likely to be evidence suggesting that the complainant delayed in making a complaint, the trial judge must give the directions in Jury Directions Act 2015 s52(4). See Effect of Delayed Complaint on Credit.
Last updated: 14 May 2021