HC Deb 19 October 1992 vol 212 cc200-1
28. Mr. Cohen

To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department what information he keeps on the racial composition of juries.

Mr. John M. Taylor

My Department does not routinely keep records on the racial composition of juries; however, a limited research exercise was carried out at a number of Crown court centres in November 1990, when jurors' race was recorded from observation.

Mr. Cohen

Have not the Society of Black Lawyers and the Commission for Racial Equality spoken in favour of multiracial juries? According to the CRE, An all-white jury may have no members capable of challenging prejudice. Are not the lists of juries predominantly "white male"? [Interruption.] Why will the Government not make a simple change, enabling a multiracial or a mixed-sex jury to be convened if either the defence or the prosecution requests it?

Mr. Taylor

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me. I did not hear all of his question, but I shall do my best to reply. [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. It really is very disruptive if Front Benchers cannot hear the questions that they are asked. I hope that the House will now settle down and listen to the Parliamentary Secretary's reply.

Mr. Taylor

During the informal observation of jury composition, the Society of Black Lawyers was consulted by the Lord Chancellor, and that was very much the intention. Meanwhile, the law on jury selection is a matter for the Home Office. Jury composition in practice is based on random selection, but the hon. Member may be pleased to know that the royal commission is examining the ethnic composition of juries as part of its remit.

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