All you need to know about jury duty
CALLED FOR JURY DUTY?
National Criminal Lawyers™ have run thousands of jury trials for those charged with Criminal offences.
Serving on a jury is a new experience for most people. Whilst some people see it as an honour, others wish to avoid duty at all costs.
An increase in longer trials caused a 75 per cent rise last year in the number of fines for people who tried to get out of jury duty without a good reason, including those who claimed the planets weren’t aligned and an allergy to air conditioning. For more information click here
The following is a guide of frequently asked questions relating to jury service.
WHO DO I CONTACT IF I AM CHOSEN AS JURY MEMBER IN AN UPCOMING CASE?
Juror Information Line: 1300 722 574
IS JURY DUTY COMPULSORY IF CHOSEN IN NSW?
Fines of up $2,200.00 if you fail to attend after being summoned to attend.
WHO CAN APPEAR ON JURY DUTY?
All who appear on the Electoral Roll can be required to perform jury service. There are some exceptions to the requirement to attend for jury service, and these exceptions are governed by the Juries Act. For example, if you are over the age of 70 years, you can choose to be excused from performing jury service.
HOW ARE JURY MEMBERS CHOSEN?
Potential juror selection is chosen randomly from the Electoral Roll and once the specific names are selected, the details are checked to determine the appropriateness for the jury service. If, for example, you reside a long distance from the courthouse where the criminal trials will be heard, you may be sent a letter confirming if you wish to be considered for jury service, but you have a right to refuse.
HOW ARE JURY MEMBERS SELECTED FOR A CASE?
Prospective jurors are chosen monthly and form what is called a ‘jury pool’. They are ‘summonsed’ to attend at the courthouse on a specific date and undergo some orientation concerning their role as jurors.
HOW LONG DO JURY MEMBERS NEED TO BE AVAILABLE IF CHOSEN?
Jurors must remain available for the entire month and are required to check their phone daily to see if they are required for jury service on any particular day during the month.
For more complex criminal trials, jurors may be required to participate in jury service for longer than a month. For example, the notorious Snowtown trial required the jury to participate in the murder trial for approximately a year.
WHAT IF I’VE ALREADY BEEN CHOSEN FOR JURY DUTY?
In NSW you remain eligible for jury selection even if you have previously served. If you’ve been selected for jury service, you may apply to be excused if you’ve participated in jury service during the previous three years.
HOW TO GET OUT OF JURY DUTY?
Apart from the age of the prospective juror, their distance from the courthouse or their prior service, there are some other grounds that can be relied upon to be excused from jury service including:
- The juror works for a business/partnership, and other members of the business/partnership have been summonsed for jury service at the same time (and this could have an adverse impact on the business);
- Poor health;
- Special urgency or importance (for example, needing to leave the country for a family member’s funeral, being the full-time carer of someone with a disability, the potential juror is late in her pregnancy, etc);
- A ‘conscientious objection’ (for example, religious grounds).
CAN I APPLY TO BE EXCUSED?
Any person selected for jury service can apply to be excused, but good reasons need to exist before the application to be excused may be granted.
WHO IS INELIGIBLE OR DISQUALIFIED FROM BEING CHOSEN AS A JURY MEMBER?
Certain members of society may be ineligible or disqualified from jury service. They include :
- A person with a mental incapacity;
- A person with an inability to understand the English language;
- Members of certain occupations including parliamentarians, solicitors, police officers and people employed within the court system;
- People who have been imprisoned for a term exceeding two years or people who during the last five years were convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment; and
- People subject to good behaviour bonds;
WILL I BE EXCUSED FROM WORK?
It is a legal requirement that employers allow their employees to take leave when summoned to attend for jury service.
WILL I BE PAID IF I AM CHOSEN AS A JURY MEMBER?
It is a legal requirement that employers allow their employees to take leave when summonsed to attend for jury service, but that does not mean employers are obliged to provide paid leave.
Jurors are entitled to receive a sum of compensation for their attendance (around $104.75/day).
If you are employed, you will receive $235.65/day starting the 11th day of the service.
This rate of payment is compensation for lost wages, child care expenses, and other expenses incurred as a result of the requirement to attend for jury service.
ROLES AND FUNCTIONS OF THE JURY
Jurors are the sole judges of the facts. In respect of all disputes about matters of fact in any case, it will be jurors and not the judge who will have to resolve them. In part, that means that it is entirely up to the jurors to decide what evidence is to be accepted and what evidence is to be rejected. For that reason, jurors need to pay careful attention to each witness as he or she gives their evidence. Jurors should not only listen to what the witnesses say but also watch them as they are giving their evidence. How a witness presents to jurors and how he or she responds to questioning, especially in cross-examination, may assist jurors in deciding whether or not you accept what that witness was saying as truthful and reliable. You are entitled to accept part of what a witness says and reject other parts of the evidence.
Each juror is to perform the function of a judge of the facts and that means the verdict(s) will ultimately be the jurors decision. The judge will have no say in what evidence jurors accept or reject or what arguments and submissions of counsel jurors find persuasive. Nor does the judge decide what verdict or verdicts jurors give in respect of any charge. It is the jury’s responsibility to make that decision.
IF THE JURY MEMBERS JUDGE THE FACTS OF THE CASE, WHO JUDGES THE LAW?
The Judge is the Judge of law and the Jury members are the judges of facts. During the trial the judge is required to ensure that all the rules of procedure and evidence are followed. During the trial and at the end of the evidence, the judge will give jurors directions about the legal principles that are relevant to the case and will explain how they should be applied by the jurors to the issues which they have to decide. The judge may be required by law to warn jurors as to how they must approach certain types of evidence. In performing your function as a jurors, you must accept and apply the law that comes from the judge.
Being selected for jury service may appear scary, intimidating, confusing and even frustrating. It can interfere with your employment and other responsibilities and many people try and find any reason to be excused from service. But juries are an exceptionally important and fundamental part of our justice system and jurors should feel proud that they have made an important contribution to law and order in New South Wales.