Court cases can be a complicated process, with there being plenty of terminology to keep in mind, and some might not be aware of what it means for a jury to be discharged.

In the UK, juries are used if a case needs to go to Crown Court, which deals with the most serious cases.

A jury is made up of 12 members of the public randomly selected from the electoral register.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) website adds: "Crown Court cases are heard by a judge and a jury.

"The judge will give directions about how the trial should run. The jury decides whether or not the defendant is guilty." 

A jury is made up of 12 random members of the public selected from the electoral registerA jury is made up of 12 random members of the public selected from the electoral register (Image: Canva)

What does it mean for a jury to be discharged?

If a jury is discharged by the judge it means that the members were not able to come to a majority verdict on the case.

VHS Fletchers Solicitors explains: "Where a case retains the original 12 jurors at least 10 must agree on the verdict.  If the numbers fall short, for example, with 8 wanting to acquit and 4 wanting to convict, that will not be an acceptable verdict."

What happens if a jury cannot reach a verdict?

In most cases, the prosecution team can apply to have the defendant tried again, which means a new trial with new jury members will take place.

The final decision will be up to the trial judge who will consider whether or not it is in the interests of justice for a retrial to take place.

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VHS Fletchers Solicitors explains that the court considers questions which include (but are not limited to) whether:

  • the alleged offence is sufficiently serious to justify a retrial
  • if re-convicted, the appellant would be likely to serve a significant period or further period in custody
  • the appellant’s age and health
  • the wishes of the victim of the alleged offence

They add: "If prosecutorial misconduct is alleged then other factors will come into play, analogous with whether it is an abuse of process to allow a retrial.

"In most cases, the defence will not be able to properly resist the application. We would, however, always carefully consider all relevant factors and object if able to."