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Directing jurors in England and Wales: the effect of narrativisation on comprehension

Nelson, Sally 2013. Directing jurors in England and Wales: the effect of narrativisation on comprehension. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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Abstract

This thesis reports the first empirical study to specifically measure and attempt to improve the comprehensibility of jury instructions in England and Wales. While a wealth of research has established that the majority of American jurors substantially misunderstand the crucial legal instructions they are given by the judge at the end of a trial, to date there has not been any comparable rigorous testing of jury instructions in England and Wales and we do not have a clear picture of how well they are understood. It is unwise to extrapolate the findings from American jury trials because the instruction methods are very different: in the English summing-up, English judges not only instruct the jury on the law but also review the evidence, and judges may, if they wish, both integrate their legal instructions with the specific evidence in the case and 'narrativise' the language of their instructions. 102 mock jurors drawn from the community were tested for their ability to recognise, recall and apply eleven legal instructions given in a summing up at the end of a rape trial simulation. They were randomly assigned to receive one of three summings up, which systematically differed in their degree of narrativisation: one based on model instructions published by the Judicial Studies Board; a second that integrated evidence from the case into the instructions; and a third that further narrativised the integrated instructions by applyign discourse features previously hypothesised as having a narrativising function. The thesis, then examines both the comprehensibility of legal instructions within the English summing up and the effect on comprehension of narrativising those intructions. A highly persuasive pattern of results occurred: increasing levels of narrativisation increased juorors' understanding of the instructions, and specifically aided jurors' ability to apply the law to the evidence in the case. Discussing the results in terms of Accommodation Theory and the Cognitive Story Model, the thesis concludes that a judge may better guide jurors through the categories of the law by accommodating the narrative approach that jurors bring to their role.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:34
URI: http://orca.cf.ac.uk/id/eprint/56293

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