18. Comments, Warnings and Directions to the Jury

18–1 The Standing Committee of Attorneys-Generalshould initiate an inquiry into the operation of the jury system, including such matters as eligibility, empanelment, warnings and directions to juries.

18–2 The uniform Evidence Acts should be amended to include provisions dealing with warnings in respect of children’s evidence similar to those contained in ss 165(6), 165A and 165B of the Evidence Act 1995 (NSW). Section 165B should be amended to make it clear that a trial judge is not to give a warning about the reliability of the evidence of a child solely on account of the age of the child.

18–3 The ALRC and the VLRC recommend that the uniform Evidence Acts be amended to provide that where a request is made by a party, and the court is satisfied that the party has suffered significant forensic disadvantage as a result of delay, an appropriate warning may be given.

The provision should make it clear that the mere passage of time does not necessarily establish forensic disadvantage and that a judge may refuse to give a warning if there are good reasons for doing so.

No particular form of words need be used in giving the warning. However, in warning the jury, the judge should not suggest that it is ‘dangerous to convict’ because of any demonstrated forensic disadvantage.