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I have been called to jury service

Question:

Why Was I Picked For Jury Service?

Answer:

Around half a million people are selected to serve on juries across England and Wales. It is a legal requirement for you to sit on a jury if you are called, but it’s also everyone’s civic duty as the jury is one of the cornerstones of our legal system.

You can be called for jury service if:

  • You are between the ages of 18 and 70.
  • You are registered on your local government’s electoral register.
  • You have lived in the UK, the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands for the last 5 years since you were 13 years old.

There are certain people who cannot serve on a jury. These people include:

  • Anyone on bail or that has previous convictions or has served a prison sentence.
  • If you are currently or have in the past suffered from a mental health problem. This includes if you are in a hospital, visit a doctor for treatment regularly, or you are in guardianship under section 7 of the Mental Health Act 1983.

What is a Jury?

A jury is made up of 12 people who have been chosen at random from the electoral register. Scotland uses 15 people when criminal trials are taking place. If you are called to sit on a coroner’s jury, you will be one of between 7 and 11 jury members.

What are Juries for?

The jury is used to decide the guilt or innocence of anyone accused of a serious crime. Cases that can involve a jury can range from fraud to murder. Most juries sit in the Crown Court where cases of serious crimes are heard. You may also be asked to sit on a jury in a coroner’s court to decide how someone died.

The Jury Summoning Form

When your name came up for jury selection you will have been sent the Jury Summons. This is a form that you must complete pages 3 and 4 and return these to the summons bureau that sent you the form. Make sure you keep pages 1 and 2 safe, as you will need to bring these with you on your first day of jury duty. If you don’t you could face a fine of up to £1,000.

At the Courthouse

When your first day as a juror arrives make sure you arrive at the court at the allotted time. Courts normally operate between 10.30am and 4.30pm. This information will be on the paperwork you were sent by the Jury Central Summoning Bureau. You will be asked for pages 1 and 2 of your summon form, plus one other piece of identification, so make sure you have this with you.

Coroner’s Courts

The coroner’s court operates differently to other courts in that the jury is not asked to return a verdict of guilty or not guilty. You are on a coroner’s jury to confirm two things: The first is the identity of the person that has died, and secondly how, when and where the person died.

Failing to Attend Due to Incapacity

It is your responsibility while you are a serving jury member to make sure you are at the court on time when your jury is sitting, or so you can wait to see if you are picked for jury duty. You must also ensure you are not under the influence of drugs or drink. If you are, you could be fined up to £1,000.

When you are summoned for jury duty you may have an event or other circumstances that mean you won’t be able to serve during the dates that have been requested by the Jury Central Summoning Bureau who will have sent you the jury summons letter. You must respond to the jury-summoning letter within 7 days.

If you to have a prior commitment you can apply for your jury service to be deferred. You can only apply for this once and the deferment can only last for up to one year. You can also apply to be excluded from this current or future jury service. To do this you need to respond to the letter you were sent about your jury service from the Jury Central Summoning Bureau giving details about why you can’t be a member of a jury.

Jury Service Exemptions

There are a number of circumstances when you will not be required to perform jury service. These include:

  • If you are suffering from, or have suffered from a mental health problem. This includes if you are in a hospital, visit a doctor for treatment regularly, or you are in guardianship under section 7 of the Mental Health Act 1983.
  • If you are on bail or have every served a prison sentence.

Time Off Work

Generally any employee has the right to take time off to perform their jury duty if they are called. Most employers understand this and support this part of our judicial system. However, if your jury duties will be over a lengthy period of time your employer will need to be consulted. It is against the law to be treated unfairly by your employer as a consequence of your jury duty.

However, bear in mind that if you are dismissed as a consequence of your jury service but failed to tell your employer, you may not have a strong case for unfair dismissal. Also, if your employer told you that your jury duty could have a damaging affect on your job, and you failed to request a deferment of your jury duty until a more convenient time; again you may not be able to claim for unfair dismissal.

Claiming Expenses

Your employer doesn’t have to pay you while you’re on jury duty, but you can claim for the money you have lost. You can also claim for travelling and food expenses. Your employer needs to complete a Certificate of Loss of Earnings so you can claim your money back. Bring this form with you on your first day at court. You can also claim for costs relating to carers or child-minders if you have children. You must have a letter from them stating how much they are charging you.

If you are self employed and wish to claim for loss of earnings, you need to provide some form of documentary proof that you have lost money as a consequence of being a juror. This could be a letter from your accountant. If you have to pay for this evidence, contact the court for advice first before requesting it.

Coping with Jury Service

The cases that you may be asked to serve on can be quite harrowing if the crime is serious. If you feel that you cannot continue as a jury member because of the stress it is causing you, it is important that you inform the court as soon as possible. Under no circumstances simply don’t turn up for your jury service as this will cause the court delays. You could face a fine or even more serious charges if you fail to tell the court you will not be able to attend. The courts understand that jury service can be stressful, so talk to them as they can help you.

You could also talk to your GP or the Samaritans. The Samaritans are trained to support people in highly emotional situations. The courts service has discussed with the Samaritans how jurors may need supporting if they call. Remember though that you can only talk about your feelings about the case you are a juror on, or have just finished. You cannot by law discuss any details of the case with anyone including the Samaritans.

Duties of a juror

If you are called to sit on a jury it is important they you are aware of the rules that you must abide by. As you are being asked to decide on the guilt or innocence of a person accused of a crime, or the cause of death if you have been called to a coroner’s court, you must always conduct yourself sensibly during the case each time you attend the court.

The rules that are laid down for jurors to follow are there to not only ensure a fare trial takes place, the rules also protect the jurors who may be involved in a highly sensitive cases.

You Must Always:

  • Return pages 3 and 4 of your jury summons form within 7 days of receiving it. If you do not reply to the jury summons form you could face a fine of up to £1,000.
  • Make sure you keep pages 1 and 2 of your jury summons form in a safe place as you must bring these with you when you come to the court on the first day.
  • Only discuss the case you are involved with when you are in the designated jury room.
  • Inform the court officials if anyone approaches you about the case your jury is involved with that is not a jury member.
  • Bring any evidence relating to any claim for expenses or loss of earnings you may have. Loss of earnings must be shown on the official Certificate of Loss of Earnings.
  • Arrive promptly at court for each day that your case is running.

You must never:

  • Discuss the case you are involved with anyone who is not a member of your own jury.
  • Forget to attend the court where your jury is sitting, or be incapable of attending because of drink or drugs. These offences could mean you are fined up to £1,000.
  • Bring a camera, mobile phone, laptop or other recording equipment into the courtroom.
  • Let anyone else take your place on a jury. It is a criminal offence to impersonate a sitting juror.
  • Take any notes you have made in the courtroom home with you. This information is sensitive and could affect the case your jury is sitting on.

What Happens if I Break these Rules?

If you don’t follow the rules that are set out for all jury members you face a fine of up to £1,000 for lesser offences such as not completing forms or being late at court. However, it’s important that you understand that the jury is part of the legal system. If you discuss your case with anyone other than another jury member, you could be perverting the course of justice, which is a much more serious offence.

Choosing a Jury

When you arrive at the court stated on your jury summons form, a court official who will look after you while you are at the court will meet you. Expect your bags to be searched and your identity checked. Once this is complete you will be taken to the jury assembly area where all jurors wait.

When a jury is required the court’s clerk will pick 12 people from the jury assembly area. Once you and your fellow jurors are in the court the swearing in will take place.

How Long will I have to be a Juror?

Most jurors are called for approximately 10 working days. During this time you could sit on a number of juries covering a wide-range of trials. In some exceptional circumstances you may be asked to serve as a juror for much longer. If the trial you are involved with will run for more than 2 weeks the judge will usually state this before you are sworn in. It is at this time you can raise any problems you may have with serving longer on the jury.

Can someone Take my Place?

When you are called for jury service the jury summons is made out in your name and your name alone. You cannot transfer the jury summons to someone else. Also, no one else impersonate you on a jury. This is a criminal offence.

Will I Get Picked for a Jury?

The court that has called you for jury duty always calls many more people than they may need. This is to ensure they have enough people when the juries are being picked. You many find that you attend court, but never get picked for actual jury duty. This may seem like a waste of time, but it’s your civic duty to attend the court if you are called, just in case you are chosen for jury duty.

In the courtroom

All members of the jury will be told in advance of the trial what their responsibilities are. If at any time during the trail you are unsure about anything, you should write this down and attract the attention of the court clerk who will pass the note to the judge. Don’t try and contact anyone else in the court, as it’s only the court clerk who can pass messages.

Foreman or Presiding Juror

The jury that you serve on will have a foreman or forewoman. They are elected before the trail begins. They guide the jury to their verdict and speak in court when the judge asks for the juries’ verdict to be given. When you are in the courtroom you must only contact the court’s clerk if you need to report anything and not your jury foreperson as this is not part of their duties.

If you are in any doubt about your duties as a juror, contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau for help. You can telephone them on: 08453 555 567 or send them an email at: jurysummoning@hmcourts-service.gsi.gov.uk.

Getting Help and Further Information

If you have a query about your jury service you can contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau by telephoning: 08453 555 567, but only until a week before your jury service is due to start. After this time, you should ask the Jury Manager of the court where your case is being heard.

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