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Citation: Cheatle (1993) 177 CLR 541.

This information can be found in the Textbook: Brown et al, Criminal Laws: Materials and Commentary on Criminal Law and Process in New South Wales, (5th edition, Federation Press, 2011), pp. 246-8.


Background facts

  • The Defendants [Cheatle] were a married couple who committed offences against the Commonwealth.
  • They appealed against their conviction by a majority decision (in SA) on the grounds that it was an abrogation of the right to trial by jury in the Constitution (ie, they argued that the right to trial by jury in s 80 meant by a unanimous jury decision).

Legal issues


  • s 80 should be interpreted as requiring a unanimous decision.
    • However, this applies only to Commonwealth offences, since other offences are governed by the States.
  • The fact that one dissenting juror is present already jeopardises the whole concept of 'guilty beyond reasonable doubt' (since one person is in doubt). To ignore that person (through majority verdicts) would be the same as to change the standard of proof required into ‘mostly beyond reasonable doubt’.
  • The jury are representative of the community in its entirety, and the concept is that a defendant is convicted only if the entire community seeks the defendant's conviction. Once again, the change to majority verdicts basically entails a change from community consent to electoral voting.
  • Furthermore, the existence of dissenting jurors means that the other jurors have to try an convince them - through this process, the majority jurors reexamine their own argument and evaluate it.


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