Format Of Citizens Juries

Citizens' Juries may take a number of different forms, but according to the IPPR they have in common some of the following characteristics:

• Time—Several days to consider the question

• Information—As much evidence as possible in the time available

• Scrutiny—Opportunity to cross examine witnesses and call for more evidence

• Deliberation—Opportunity for discussion amongst themselves and with witnesses

• Independence—The Jury is independent of the organising body

• Authority—Findings carry a weight of authority derived from the independence of the Jury and the integrity of the process

A Citizens' Jury differs from an ordinary legal trial in that much more interaction amongst jurors, and particularly between jurors and witnesses, takes place. Jurors engage in group work and discussions and have considerable opportunity to cross examine witnesses themselves after they have presented their evidence. Over a period of four days 10-15 witnesses may be called. Fifteen minutes is usually allowed for each witness session followed by forty five minutes or so for questions. The Jury deliberates over the evidence together and in small groups before reaching any decisions. With the help of a moderator a number of recommendations are agreed.

Not all issues are appropriate for a Citizens' Jury to address. The issues chosen must be of sufficient importance to justify the time and the costs involved, and also must potentially affect every citizen to some extent. According to Hogwood and Gunn (1984) an issue is likely to reach the political agenda only if one or more of the following circumstances apply: (a) the issue has reached crisis proportions and can no longer be ignored; (b) it has an emotive aspect or a human interest angle; (c) it seems likely to have a wide impact; (d) it might raise questions about power and legitimacy in society and, (e) the issue is fashionable in some way. Genetic testing clearly meets all of these criteria.

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