Jury Service

Posted: February 1, 2011 by INC in general
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The headteacher, has sent Evelinasec this post about her experiences so far being on jury service.

Just before Christmas I received a summons for Jury Service. Sitting on a jury is a civic duty in the UK, and the minimum time a juror must be available is for two weeks. Selection is a lottery as your name is randomly chosen from the Electoral Register. With a few exceptions, anyone between the ages of 18 and 70 can sit on a jury.  If you have been to prison before or you are on probation, you may not be a juror. Over 200,000 people perform this public duty every year. I have lived in GB for over 30 years, but never been called to be juror, although I know some people who have had to serve on a jury more than once.

My Jury Service is taking place in Wood Green Crown Court. This is a local court which hears more serious criminal trials such as theft, burlary and drugs offences.  Jurors may also be required to hear cases such as murder and rape, although these are less common.

Jurors have to be available daily from 10am to 4.30pm. On the very first day, they have to arrive by 9 a.m. to watch an information video and be briefed by the Jury Manager. Jurors are given a money card with about £5 worth of credit per day to buy lunch and drinks in the canteen. You can also claim travel expensives. If your employer will not pay your salary while you are on jury service, you can also complete a claim form to receive a basic daily rate for being a juror.

There are strict rules about what jurors may and may not do. The main rule is that you may not talk about the case outside the courtroom at any time with anyone (even members of your family); you may only discuss the case in the jury deliberation room with your fellow jurors.

Some jurors here today are obviously in their second week. You can tell because they sit in groups, chatting to each other about day-to-day things, comfortable in their surroundings. There is lots of laughing and animated conversation in these parts of the room. Those of us who are newer to the role are much more isolated, tappin away on laptops or blackberries, having business meetings on mobiles, watching dvds or listening to music on portable players, or reading novels or magazines.

When you are not hearing a case, you stay in a large lounge with all the other jurors. You are not allowed to leave the premises, and some smokers are clearly finding this a little constraining. Some jurors returning from a case were a verdit has just been delivered, appear stressed by the experience. They head for other jurors they know. ‘That was horrible!’ ‘What a terrible thing to happen to somebody’. ‘I wasn’t at all sure. We voted 2-10.’ The ‘no talking about the case’ rule is clearly a difficult one to master, but no-one seems to impart ‘confidential’ information- it is mainly about letting off steam and seeking emotional support.

I have been quite anxious about doing this jury service. I worry whether I will be a good juror- will I remember all the relevant facts, will I be fair about weighing up the evidence presented, will I be swayed by inconsequential matters or prejudices? I am also worried that my case may end up being longer than the average two weeks. I don’t want to be away from work for longer than this, and I have booked a flight to see relatives in Germany in three weeks time.

I hear my name over the loudspeaker in amongst about 45 others. We are shepherded into a tiny corridor and ferried in a lift up in groups of 15 to an empty court room. The Jury Manager says the judge is looking for volunteers prepared to sit on a case which he anticipates will take at least 5 weeks. If enough people volunteer from amongst our group, the judge will not have to direct specific jurors to sit the case. Several people next to me get fidgety and mumble that they don’t want to come here for 5 weeks. A few people volunteer. The Jury Manager is patient. She reminds people that if they do not volunteer, the judge can direct them anyway, and that there may be others who really would find 5 weeks attendance difficult. A few more people volunteer. I sit on my hands and hope she’ll get enough to satisfy the judge. I have not been keeping count, so have no idea how many people actually volunteered, when silence indicates the goodwill has dried up.

We are trooped back to the Jury lounge. Within twenty minutes,  the volunteer jury for Court 6 is confirmed. I am safe for now and return to my newspaper. Name after name is called to be the Standby Jury for Court 10, a little later for Court 7, then for Court 5. My name is not selected for any.  I carry on reading my newspaper and will be the most knowledgable current affairs juror of the day.

  1. evelinasec says:

    Very interesting Aleunam.
    How about setting up your own blog page too?

  2. ROH says:

    Hi Aleunam I hope that you are having a good time (well as much as you can) and that everyone is being nice I hope that you are able to come back soon as we all miss you.
    You blog post is very informative and it gives us a really good example about what jury duty is like.
    One thing that could be changed is the way you have laid it out you have all the right information but the structure is a little bit off you started with a very heavy chunk of information and then you go on to talk about your own personal experience. What we usually do when we are righting is to start with a snappy paragraph like when you said “on the first day we had to arrive at 9.00 am” if I read that I would immediately think what is this about and would be intrigued as to what else was in the post. I would move the information about the jury serves to near the end. But overall it was a very good piece of writing and I am intrigued to hear what else is happening.

  3. evelinasec says:

    I think that’s the equivalent of a well done sticker for you from roh, Aleunam! 🙂
    NB: Our house style is to write numbers up to twelve in words, and then in figures.

  4. Aleunam says:

    Thanks for your very helpful comments, Ryan. I totally agree about the ‘top heavy – too much information at the beginning’ tips. I decided to start with these as they were ‘safe things’ to talk about. I would very much have liked to write about the interesting conversations you hear in the jurors’ lounge, or the to-ing and fro-ing that goes on when jurors have to discuss the evidence heard in court and agree (preferrably unanimously) about the person’s guilt or innocence. That is really the most interesting part of being a juror, but we are forbidden to talk about these outside the courthouse, as, for obvious reasons, these must be kept confidential.

    Regards to you all

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