Source: pp 185-186, The Art of the Advocate (1993) by Richard Du Cann QC (called to the Bar of England and Wales).

  Juries have no rights on questions of evidence at all, except as the final arbiters of fact. It is one Of the contradictions Of English legal procedure that those who are required to decide questions of fact have no power to require fact to be laid before them. They can, of course, ask questions. But they cannot require witnesses to be called to answer them, or even insist that witnesses Who are called do answer them. (Grand juries had power to do both. They were abolished in 1933.) This may be a shock for layman who believes in the infallibility of the jury system without understanding what a jury undertakes to do. Their oath return a verdict, 'according to the evidence'. Their oath is not to return a verdict, 'according to the evidence which We think should be called'. so, if the question they ask requests information which by the laws of evidence is inadmissible (for instance, in a criminal trial, 'has the defendant done this before?'), then it cannot be answered. Put more shortly, they cannot ask questions which could not be asked by the Judge or either of the advocate.
[1.] As a rule questions come from the jury after they have retired to consider their verdict, when they cannot be answered. This may seem harsh. But the line must be drawn somewhere.
There must be a point when no further evidence can possibly be called by whatever name it may be known. That point is reached when the Judge finishes his summing-up.

Is 1 wrong? Does 1 contradict the jury's option to pose questions in writing only to the Judge per this and this article of 2012 Nov 17 by English barrister Dan Bunting?

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    This is specifically talking about questions of evidence. Not, for example, questions of law. Oct 12, 2016 at 17:41

2 Answers 2


As a comment by @DavidSchwartz notes, this is not wrong. Questions of law but not fact are allowed.

It is worth noting that the line drawn is arbitrary. In Colorado, where I practice, jurors issue written questions (pre-reviewed by the judge and counsel for all parties before being presented) to witnesses at the close of the testimony of each witness called by a party to testify.

This is very helpful to counsel, as it provides indirect evidence of whether the jury understands what they are being told, and often juries will directly ask questions that for tactical reasons, both parties have refrained from asking that go to the heart of the matter. It also frequently clarifies misunderstandings that trained legal professionals assumed were not made about terminology.

This is more problematic in criminal trials, where jury questions could provide evidence pushing a case over the threshold of proof needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the prosecution failed to provide, than in civil cases with a preponderance of the evidence standard.

Also, as a matter of reality, when jurors ask questions, counsel often loathe to object even when they have valid grounds to do so, for fear of offending the decision-maker, unless it is really critical to keep certain information away from the jury.


There is some ambiguity in "As a rule", whether it means "What the rule is", or "This is what generally ends up happening". If the latter, the writer may be saying that jurors are supposed to submit their question before the parties rest, but jurors, often being unfamiliar with legal procedure, submit them after the parties rest, at which point the questions cannot be answered. Thus, jurors have the option of submitting questions, but are often of insufficient legal sophistication to submit them properly.

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