Regina v Pan: 29 Jun 2001

(Supreme Court of Canada) The court considered the reason behind the common law rule against a court examining the activities of a jury: ‘the rule seeks to preserve the secrecy of the jury’s deliberations, while ensuring that those deliberations remain untainted by contact with information or individuals from outside the jury. As a result, where the evidence establishes that the jury has been exposed to outside information or influences, it will generally be admissible.’ However the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic matters ‘is not always self-evident and it is not possible to articulate with complete precision what is contemplated by the idea of a matter ‘extrinsic’ to the jury deliberation process.’ It is a distinction which is at times ‘difficult to discern.’
Arbour J identified the principal reasons for the common law rule of jury secrecy: ‘The first reason supporting the need for secrecy is that confidentiality promotes candour and the kind of full and frank debate that is essential to this type of collegial decision making. While searching for unanimity, jurors should be free to explore out loud all avenues of reasoning without fear of exposure to public ridicule, contempt or hatred. This rationale is of vital importance to the potential acquittal of an unpopular accused, or one charged with a particularly repulsive crime. In my view, this rationale is sound, and does not require empirical confirmation.
The Court of Appeal also placed considerable weight on the second rationale for the secrecy rule: the need to ensure finality of the verdict. Describing the verdict as the product of a dynamic process, the court emphasized the need to protect the solemnity of the verdict, as the product of the unanimous consensus which, when formally announced, carries the finality and authority of a legal pronouncement. That rationale is more abstract, and inevitably invites the question of why the finality of the verdict should prevail over its integrity in cases where that integrity is seriously put in issue. In a legal environment such as ours, which provides for generous review of judicial decisions on appeal, and which does not perceive the voicing of dissenting opinions on appeal as a threat to the authority of the law, I do not consider that finality, standing alone, is a convincing rationale for requiring secrecy.
The respondent, as well as the interveners supporting its position and, in particular, the Attorney General of Quebec, place great emphasis on the third main rationale for the jury secrecy rule – the need to protect jurors from harassment, censure and reprisals. Our system of jury selection is sensitive to the privacy interests of prospective jurors …, and the proper functioning of the jury system, a constitutionally protected right in serious criminal charges, depends upon the willingness of jurors to discharge their functions honestly and honourably. This in turn is dependent, at the very minimum, on a system that ensures the safety of jurors, their sense of security, as well as their privacy.’


Arbour J


[2001] 2 SCR 344, 200 DLR (4th) 577, 155 CCC (3d) 97, 2001 SCC 42



Cited by:

CitedPintori, Regina v CACD 13-Jul-2007
The defendant appealed his conviction for possession of class A drugs, saying that the drugs found had belonged to somebody who had stayed at his flat whilst he had been away. One of the jurors later told a police officer that she had known through . .
CitedSeckerson and Times Newspapers Ltd v The United Kingdom ECHR 24-Jan-2012
The first applicant had been chairman of a jury and had expressed his concerns about their behaviour to the second applicant who published them. They were prosecuted under the 1981 Act. They had said that no details of the deliberations had been . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commonwealth, Criminal Practice

Updated: 01 May 2022; Ref: scu.254582