Any person charged with an offence has the right ... except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment ...

Section 11(f) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

A jury trial brings together twelve Canadian citizens without any legal training from the local community to decide collectively whether an accused is guilty of an allegation of criminal misconduct.

The jury’s decision must be unanimous – all twelve jurors must be satisfied that the state has proven the specific allegation beyond a reasonable doubt in order to find an accused guilty.

If the jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict, and the judge is satisfied that further deliberations would be futile, the judge may discharge the jury (Criminal Code s. 653). The matter would then proceed to trial before a new jury at a later date.

The following comments from the Supreme Court of Canada provide further insight into the role of the jury:

Our jury system is based upon trial by one's peers: twelve randomly chosen, representative jurors. The jury reflects the common sense, the values, and the conscience of the community. …

Karatkasanis, J., speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Davey, [2012] S.C.J. No. 75, at para. 30

 

…The jury hears all the evidence admitted at trial, receives instructions from the trial judge as to the relevant legal principles, and then retires to deliberate. It applies the law to the facts in order to arrive at a verdict. In acting as fact-finders … jurors... bring into the jury room the totality of their knowledge and personal experiences, and their deliberations benefit from the combined experiences and perspectives of all of the jurors. One juror may remember a detail of the evidence that another forgot, or may be able to answer a question that perplexes another juror. Through the group decision-making process, the evidence and its significance can be comprehensively discussed in the effort to reach a unanimous verdict.

Arbour, J., speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Pan; R. v. Sawyer, [2001] S.C.J. No. 44, at para. 43

 

…The jury, through its collective decision making, is an excellent fact finder; due to its representative character, it acts as the conscience of the community; the jury can act as the final bulwark against oppressive laws or their enforcement; it provides a means whereby the public increases its knowledge of the criminal justice system and it increases, through the involvement of the public, societal trust in the system as a whole.

L’Heureux-Dube, J., speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. Sherratt, [1991] 1 S.C.R. 509, at para. 30

Other considerations:

The judge, not the jury, will decide upon an appropriate punishment if there is a finding of guilt.

For the most serious offences listed in section 469 of the Criminal Code, including murder, a jury trial is mandatory in the absence of consent by the Attorney General to have the matter heard by a judge of a superior court (Criminal Code s. 473).

 

 

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