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The reality of jury service

Posted by
02 Feb 2016
Recently my partner was involved, as a juror, in a case that is the first of its kind. Exciting stuff right? You could not be more wrong. At first everything was normal he was called in for two weeks, the first of which he sat on a chair watching movies he had downloaded and occasionally having to get up and stand in a line just in case his number was read out. Talking to other jurors around him that were on cases some had been called up several times, some had been on a trial for nearly four months and some were there for two weeks and went back to their normal lives.

During the second week his number was called, a 10 week minimum case. As he had just started his role in August and the trial started at the beginning of October his first thought turned to how his work would take the news. Now if you are assigned to a case the good news is your place of work cannot fire you no matter the length of the trial. They can, however, stop paying you and HMRC pay your “gross pay” instead. The only power your employer holds is that they can fill out a lengthy form which basically stated that they can’t do any work without you and that your absence would be catastrophically detrimental to the business. Luckily they were fine with it.

Ten weeks dragged on, as a newly employed graduate who was starting his accountancy traineeship this was already too long. You are sat in the same room between the hours of 10am to 4pm listening to the prosecution’s lengthy speech. At least three times a week the jury were sent home on half days so that the judge and lawyers could discuss “matters of law”. To know whether or not they were even supposed to attend the next day a text message was sent out by the clerk the night before, random days were taken off. Some of these random days they were told they could go back into work others you couldn’t.

Ten weeks had gone and the prosecution had not finished, it was now Christmas. My partner was incredibly frustrated, I was frustrated as he could not discuss anything with me, his work needed him back and he had officially been on jury service longer than he had been at work. Luckily this case came to a close three weeks later and our ordeal had come to an end.

My partner’s situation, fortunately is stable in terms of he has a full time job that is not reliant on commission or being self-employed. However for some on his case who were self-employed every day they could not be in work they were losing money. In an office full of consultants four months out of the office would certainly result in very few placements.

Every time my partner mentions he has been on jury service people say “how exciting I would love to do that” and “being paid not to be at work, it must be so interesting”. People do not realise just how much it intrudes on your normal routine. You can’t tell anyone about your case or about what you have done that day as if you are found to divulge any information that is not public you will be arrested. Random days in and out really affects with your daily routine. The excitement wears off very quickly as pay gets missed, you get messed about and the frustration of the case starts to get to you.

So, if you are being called up soon, go in prepared. It is not a two week holiday for many it is a long slog. The glamour soon subsides and the desire to go back to work (mad I know) is real.

A few tips:

  • Keep an open mind
  • The judge is on your side
  • Take notes – witness one was a long time ago
  • When you do have days off – when the case is over it is usually for a good reason
  • “They just look guilty” is not a reason to send someone to jail
  • Everybody is allowed an opinion – be willing to move on yours
  • Listen to all the facts.

Hopefully with this anecdote you will be more prepared to face whatever jury service has to throw at you.
Tagged In: Careers, Employment, Legal
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