Have you ever been selected for Jury service – if not I imagine you know someone who has? Perhaps you have always wanted to be part of the process or simply have no interest and would hate it.
Who can be called
If you are on the Electorial Register and between 18 and 75 you have a chance of being called. The new age of 75 was recently introduced for England and Wales There are exceptions of who can and cannot be a Juror and this will be detailed on your letter. Please note my experience is based on England court systems.
I have been called twice and while I cannot mention any details I will expand generally on what to expect.
The process begins with a letter (known as the Jury Summons) delivered to your home (by normal post). It will give you a date and time to report for Jury service – generally is it around 4-6 weeks away from the date of the letter. This should give you time to arrange childcare cover, time off work etc.
Taking time off work
You need to bring a copy of the letter regarding Jury Service to your employer. Generally your employer will give you the time off but can ask the Court to delay your Jury service if it is going to have a big impact at work. However, you will still be required to attend Jury service at a later date so ideally get it over with if you can.
It is up to your employer if they pay you or not. If not then you can claim for loss of earnings from the Court. My firm has a process in place for Jury service which allows you the full 2 weeks off with pay. If your employer is not going to give you time off regardless you have the right to complain to an Employment Tribunal. However I imagine that most employers are happy their staffs is doing their duty. Do check with your Employer on their process. If your employer does not pay you there is a system in place where you can claim from the Court. Again this will be explained in your letter.
What to wear
Generally you should wear clothes you feel comfortable in. You will be sitting around for quite a while (either in court or upstairs) so smart casual is the key. When I went I wore jeans and tee-shirt with a smart jacket. Best to leave the ripped jeans and band slogan tee shirts for the weekend! Likewise no need to wear a suit unless that is your preferred choice.
What to expect on your first day
A lot of waiting around so you need patience!
When you arrive at Court on your first day you must bring the letter with you and also some form of Photo ID. After going through security you are then taken to a room and shown a film all about what to expect during your stint.
Afterwards you are then taken to the Jurors only room where you will meet all other potential jurors who may like you be newbies or some who are on their 2nd week.
Generally there will be around 50 people in the room. While the Jury is usually made up of 12 people (this may be different in Scotland and also in the UK the type of cases being held may mean a smaller Jury ) there are always a lot of people as are many cases going on.
You can take a seat and have a tea or coffee. The TV is always on but always on mute! The reason for this is that there are always announcements calling selected Jurors to their particular court.
When you are settled you will then either hear nothing all day or will suddenly hear your name called. This means they are getting a Jury ready for a particular case.
I would recommend you take a lot of reading material as if you are not picked you cannot leave the building (unless lunch time). So bring along that Novel you had been intending to read or a load of puzzle magazines.
Also do chat to the others in the room as you will certainly get to know them very well over the course of a few weeks!
There is always a good mixture of people as a Jury needs to be made up of a wide selection of the public.
While there is food/drink available it may not be to your taste so if you wish you can bring food/drink with you. You do get a small lunch allowance of around £6 a day to use in the canteen. This will be on a card which you then swipe at the counter. Of course if you spend more you can use your cash. Likewise you will also be refunded for travel (up to a certain amount) – this will be explained on your first day at Jury service so make sure you keep all your receipts.
Selection of the jury
A group of 15 names are called at random – then you go down to the Court. From the 15 names 12 are selected and sworn in to be the Jury. Once everyone is sworn in the case starts usually immediately.
Some cases only last a few hours, days or even around 2 weeks (some do last longer) but generally you are only required for 2 weeks.
The team then make their case for both the defence and prosecution and you are presented with all the evidence (which can be really interesting) but quite tiring to listen and try to take it all in. Witnesses for both sides are also called and they are sworn in and then give their evidence.
Please note that you will at no time come into contact with the Witness or people on trial outside the court. So please do not worry. Also your names are never given out so all details regarding you are private.
You are given pen and paper to take notes. If you are unclear about anything you can pass a note to the Jury Clerk who will relay it to the Judge. Never be afraid to ask the Jury Clerk questions if you are unsure. After all you are deciding the verdict of a person on trial. If you need a toilet break also let the Jury Clerk know and a small break will be arranged.
The ‘working day’ is generally 9.30am to 12 midday then 1 hour lunch and back from 1pm to around 4pm. These timings are guidelines as each court may vary. You generally need to be at the court at least 30 minutes before your case starts as you need to go through security and sign in. Likewise also make sure you are never late back from lunch. I have heard of a case where a Juror was late back from lunch and had to pay a fine.
Once all the evidence has been heard – the Judge will sum up the case – this can be very quick if a straightforward case or could be quite lengthy. The Judge will then explain to you what is expected and will often give you a time period in order to make a decision.
All the Jurors on the case are then taken to a deliberation room. This room is just for the Jurors only and you must remain in that room at all times. This includes eating your lunch. Toilet breaks are arranged by phoning the Jury Clerk who will escort you.
A Foreman (or women) is then selected – you choose the Foreman yourself. Often many people will want to volunteer – please note that if you feel uncomfortable about being a Foreman than you can ask someone else in the group to do it. The Foreman is there to lead the case and help with deciding if the person is guilty or not guilty. When I have been on cases we all went round the room and got first thoughts on whether we thought the people were guilty or not guilty. We then debated at length before we came to a conclusion. Never be persuaded to change your mind just so you can finish early.
General information on the case
I must stress that at no time must you ever discuss the case outside this room. Likewise you cannot discuss the case with family and friends and on no account put on social media details about the case. This would be contempt of court and you may find yourself at a later date in court yourself but from the other side!
If you are at a major court or a well-known trial you may be surrounded by reporters. Again do not speak to these people. Do tell the Jury Clerk or another member of staff if you are approached.
Some trials can be very upsetting or have graphic details. If you are finding this distressing please note that you can arrange to speak to someone in private and they will be able to give you further advice.
Once you all have reached a majority verdict (the Judge will advise you on what he considers a majority) you are al then called back into the Court. The Foreman will then be asked if you have reached a verdict and is it a majority verdict. The Judge will then ask you if Guilty or Not Guilty on each of the named accounts. The Foreman gives his verdict and then the sentencing is announced. Sometime this is immediately and sometimes the Judge will consider the verdict at a later stage. Once you have given the verdict you are finished. You will then go back upstairs, complete a few forms regarding payment etc and then leave the court.
Jury service is a really interesting thing to do, it can be stressful but a great way of seeing how the Courts are run. I hope if you ever get called that you embrace it.