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Jury service: what to expect

28th June 2018

[Image credit: Patrick Feller, Flickr]

Perhaps you’ve been lucky (or unlucky) enough to be summoned for jury service, or you’ve been binging The Staircase on Netflix and found yourself wondering what it would be like to serve in a real life trial or legal job. Whatever your reason, here’s everything you might want to know about jury service.

How does the jury get chosen?

According to Dan Bunting from UK Criminal Law Blog, “Jurors are chosen at random from the electoral roll for the local area (so you have to be a citizen of the EU or Commonwealth). Everyone who is over 18 and under 70 is eligible for jury selection (all the details are set out in the Juries Act 1974 as amended) if you having been living in the UK for the last 5 years.

Certain people are disqualified:

  • People who have a ‘mental disorder‘ as defined in Sch 1
  • People on bail for a criminal offence
  • People who have received a sentence of life imprisonment, IPP, extended sentence or a determinate sentence in excess of 5 years
  • People who have finished (within the last 10 years) a prison sentence or Community Order

Also, the Judge can determine that an individual who is ‘not capable of acting as a juror’ can be discharged (for example – they can’t speak English).”

What happens if I don’t turn up?

According to CourtroomAdvice, you could get fined up to £1,000.

NI Direct says you could be fined if you:

  • don't reply to the summons
  • don't go to jury service without good reason
  • are not available to be a juror when your name is called
  • are not fit to be a juror because of your use of drink or drugs

You can however apply to defer jury service for things like pre-booked holidays and upcoming operations, according to the Gov.uk website.

Do I get paid/compensated?

“The court won’t pay you to do jury service, but you can claim expenses such as food, drink and travel.” States Katie Collings from the Chronicle Live.

“There is a canteen and you are given £5.50 for dinner each day. This increases if your time on jury service is extended.

“All expenses incurred are paid into your bank account after your jury service has finished.

“You can also claim for loss of earnings if your employer doesn’t pay you during your jury service.”

Do I need to bring anything?

NI Direct also claims that you need to bring with you the following:

  • full passport
  • photo driving licence
  • EU National Identity card
  • Home Office documents confirming UK immigration status

Alternatively, you can also bring any two of the following:

  • birth certificate (issued within six weeks of birth)
  • credit card with three statements and proof of signature
  • cheque book and bank card with three statements and proof of signature
  • three utility bills showing your name and address

You will also (and most definitely) want to bring something to keep yourself occupied with. This can be anything like iPads, laptops, books and newspapers as you could be waiting around a lot.

What should I wear?

“There is no official dress code for jury service”, according to Juryservice.org. “The main thing is to be comfortable. You will be sitting in a waiting room or during a court session for a long time so wearing uncomfortable clothes just to look smart is not a good idea.

“Jurors have worn clothing ranging from a smart suit to jeans and T-shirts. Having said that, those in suits tended to only wear them the first day.

“Smart, casual would seem to be a sensible middle ground. Clothing with prominent or offensive logos or marketing would probably not be a good idea.”

Do I have to arrange my own travel?

In short, yes. Although the NI Direct recommends taking public transport rather than driving:

“It is recommended that you use public transport to get to the courthouse.

“Public transport is not always suitable for everyone, therefore details of local car parks are included as part of the useful information sheet in your juror pack. 

“Be careful about the car park you choose. While pay and display car parks are handy for short stays, you could be sworn onto a jury meaning you won't be able to leave the courthouse to top up your ticket.”

How long is it likely to last?

According to NI Direct, “jury service usually lasts for 10 days, but some trials take longer. Jurors are usually warned in advance if a trial is expected to last a long time.”

Robert Charles Lee, a non-practising lawyer also claims that jury service is usually held during the working week. “Jury service in the UK is usually a Monday to Friday thing because court hearings are also a Monday to Friday thing.

“Sometimes the circumstances may be so exceptional that a jury panel had to be selected over the weekend — but I’ve not encountered that situation when I was an English solicitor.”

Katie from the Chronicle Live also suggests the day is roughly as long as a work day, starting from “10am until 4.30pm. Lunch is from 1pm until 2pm. You are not allowed to leave the building at any time apart from within this hour.

“However if you are not chosen for a case you are usually allowed to go home earlier.”

What sort of case can I expect?

NI Direct claims that a case before the Crown Court could involve:

  • burglary
  • fraud
  • rape
  • murder
  • a number of different crimes

A case before the High Court however could involve an allegation of libel or slander.

Will I definitely get to serve on trial?

Katie from the Chronicle Live claims that not everyone will get to serve as an actual juror in the court. “Court ushers stand at the front of the waiting room when they are ready to select people. They read out around 30 names at random and those people are taken down to court. In court 12 people of the 30 are then chosen, again at random.”

Can I talk about the case?

According to the Gov.uk website there are strict rules about talking about the case:

“Do not discuss the trial with anyone until it’s finished, except with other jury members in the deliberation room.

“After the trial you must not talk about what happened in the deliberation room, even with family members. You can talk about what happened in the courtroom.

“Do not post comments about the trial on social media websites like Facebook or Twitter - even after the trial’s finished. This is contempt of court and you can be fined or sent to prison.”