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Juries ‘should work in small groups’

Juries ‘should work in small groups’

Problems encountered by people serving on juries could be solved by asking them to debate a verdict in smaller groups, research suggests.

A jury typically involves 12 people but some can feel intimidated or bullied into agreeing with others.

Splitting them up to deliberate, which research shows may solve those problems, could lead to more representative verdicts being reached. More people feel they can 'chip in' if smaller groups are used, psychologists who did tests at the University of Portsmouth found.

Dr Bridget Waller said research that had already been done into jury discussions showed the 12 people rarely all manage to contribute to the process of reaching a verdict. She said it found a quarter are totally silent throughout the process and up to a third are pushed out of discussions.

Her experiment put people in simulated jury situations but one group was given sets of chairs grouped for four people and the other used the usual jury room set-up of 12 chairs round a table.

When researchers spoke to the participants afterwards, those in smaller groups said they believed their views had been listened to more than those from the other group. They also reported feeling more comfortable speaking up and less intimidated by other people.

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