When does a Jury not give a verdict?

Generally speaking, we expect that after a trial there will a verdict of guilty or not guilty, and the defendant will either be acquitted or face sentence.  However there are some circumstances when the jury do not give a verdict.

Hung Jury

A ‘hung jury’ is the phrase used when a jury simply cannot decide whether a defendant is guilty or not.  Normally, after some time has passed and the jury have not reached a verdict, the Judge will make a direction that a majority verdict will be accepted. The time given to a jury to decide will vary depending on the length of the case. If, even after a majority direction has been given, the jury cannot reach a verdict, they will be discharged.

Matters of Law

Frequently, lawyers in the case will argue away from the just about what can be heard by the jury and what shouldn’t, because it may be unfair to the defendant.  Once the Judge has made a decision that a matter should not go before a jury if it is then revealed, even accidentally, to the jury the judge may say that is impossible for the defendant to have a fair trial.  In such cases the Judge may then order the jury to be dismissed.


Should there a real danger that the jury are, or could be, biased, the Judge should be dismissed.  For example, this could occur, if a juror or jurors have openly expressed racist views which would prejudice the defendant.

Discharge of a juror

On some occasions where one or more jury members cannot continue to act, for example due to illness, the remaining jurors will still be able to come to a decision.   The Juries Act 1974 states that provided that at least 9 out of 12 jurors remain, the jury should not be discharged.

At Emery Johnson Astills we have considerable experience dealing with all kinds of criminal cases and can provide you with expert legal advice and representation from the Police Station all the way through the court process.