Sarah Lloyd is a PhD candidate here at Worcester who is focusing her research around jury decision making. In this academic blog, she talks about the criminal justice system (CJS) and the decision-making process.

A wooden gavel with a grey background

I have always had a passion for all things criminal and forensic psychology and although I came back to education in my 40’s to actually study forensic psychology, I always retained that passion for the topic, including reading true crime books, binging documentaries etc.   I began with a BTEC in forensic science and then went onto Birmingham City University to obtain my Graduate Certificate and Diploma in Psychology and then my Masters in Forensic Psychology.  Throughout this I volunteered as a research assistant and taught on the psychology course, mainly forensic psychology and signed up to do a PhD.

Throughout my studies, I became more and more interested in the latter or end processes of the criminal justice system (CJS) and particularly jury decision-making processes.  This is vitally important, as we leave the decision of someone’s guilt or innocence in the hands of 12 randomly selected, ordinary people who tend to have no experience or knowledge of courts or the CJS.  If the decision is ‘wrong’ an innocent person could be convicted or a guilty person go free and go on to commit more crimes. 

Despite this, and many other issues such as the way studies have traditionally been carried out with juries, very little is known about how they collectively reach and make a verdict decision.  This is largely because we, as researchers and people, cannot enter the jury room, and jurors cannot talk about their decision making outside of the jury room, under s.8 of the Contempt of Court Act, 1981.  My research  explores how the group (jury)  come to their verdict decision, looking at factors like how they use evidence, and the influence of the group, in order to understand more about these processes and to ensure juries make more informed decisions, using mock juries and a qualitative approach.

I’m currently writing up and hope to submit by the end of the year.  Although challenging, I would say it is never too late to go back and study something that you are passionate about.  There is a lot of support, interesting topics, and you never know where this might lead.  Studying Criminology or Forensic Psychology gives you the opportunity to examine and explore lots of interesting topics and research opportunities.