Thousands of people are called up to serve on a jury each year, and it’s the backbone of our legal system. The eligibility criteria varies depending on where in the UK you live, but if you’re aged over 18, under 70 and listed on the electoral roll, then the letter summoning to court might drop onto the doormat at any time. Even if you fit into the broad age category, there are other categories of people who aren’t allowed to sit on a jury.
Before 2004, the list of occupations of people who were allowed to opt out of jury duty was extensive. It included pharmacists, doctors, vicars, members of the House of Lords and lawyers. Changes under the 2003 Criminal Justice Act means that these occupations can now be called to jury service in England and Wales, but may still be excused if they are called in Scotland. People who work as Police Officers at any level, or who volunteer as Special Constables are not allowed to serve of duties.
Illness and Incapacity
People who are mentally ill, or who lack the capacity to understand what is going on in the courtroom and make decisions on the evidence are also excused from jury duty. People who fall into this category can ask to be excused, or can get someone else to ask for them to be excused if they are too ill to call themselves. This exemption also applies to people with chronic health problems which would mean sitting in a court room for potentially hours on end would be impossible for them.
People with criminal convictions are not automatically barred from serving on a jury. Only people who have been sentenced to prison for periods of five years or more are barred from jury service. People with minor convictions or cautions must still attend as requested. DBS checks are not carried out on jury members as standard. In some exceptional circumstances, such as cases involving terrorism and national security, it may be felt necessary to look into jurors’ backgrounds in greater depth. This is done in order weed out people with extreme views. Courts might also run other vetting checks on jury members and the immediate family for the most sensitive cases.
You don’t get paid a fee for sitting on a jury, but may be able to claim some expenses. In most cases, you will be provided with drinks and lunch. You might also be able to claim travel expenses up to a daily limit, and will be asked to hand in receipts or tickets for reimbursement. If you have to organise childcare, you can also claim towards that cost. Finally, you can claim for loss of earnings. In many cases, employers will carry on paying your salary while you’re serving on a jury. If your employer won’t pay your salary, then check online with the court service for details of the rates. If you are selected to serve on a long trial, the reimbursement is higher the longer you serve.