Jury Service In The UK
What To Expect!!
I think this was the number one concern That I had and also what prompted me to write this hub, I and many other people I have talked to about The Jury process were concerned about what to expect and as such if you go onto Google and type in Jury service the one thing you will find is people asking how to get out of it. In fact this topic covered about 90% of all the Jury queries I experienced on google.
Its at this point that I say, at first I wanted to get out of it too as I was nervous about what to expect and am not the best person when it comes to new experiences and environments. The thought of being stuck in a room with other people I didnt know and also being there for an undetermined amount of time was in short making me very nervous. This led me to write this hub and hopefully it will be perfect for those who have been called up and are counting down the weeks till it starts and have no clue what is going to happen.
The process is much the same in courts up and down the UK and what I tell you is what most likely will happen. So we begin with sending back all the forms you get in the post.
The form drops through the letter box and you get the dread creep up on you, Its fine trust me, First thing you need to do is see where they are sending you, In my case they wanted me to go to a court that was 30 miles away, if this is too much for you then by all means just tell them, I sent a little note along with my forms stating that there was a closer court which would better suit me and expressed that I was perfectly happy to go to the closer one. At the end of the day by them sending you to a closer court they are themselves saving money and trust me court cases cost a lot as you may find out when you go.
This was excepted much to my delight so don't be afraid to ring the court or write a note. Do not delay in sending back the forms and if you do just announce that you were on holiday so didn't get your mail. They have to allow for people to be away on holiday so if you delay slightly in sending back your form don't fret the night away and lose sleep over it.
Make sure the forms are filled in correctly and they have a correct mobile number for you as they can ring day to day and change your start time and also sometimes the venue although this wasn't the case for me.
The first day is a nerve racking one, You will usually be greeted at the entrance by security who will ask to search your bag and empty your pockets before going through a metal detector, This is standard procedure and is designed for you and everyone else's safety.
Once this has happened you will be met by some kind of court clerk, a kind of meet and greet person who will take you to the jurors holding area where there will likely be 40 or 50 jurors depending on the size of the court house and how many cases there are. If you are a little nervous like I was thats fine as everyone in that room is in the same boat.
Refreshments will be there and it will be explained about the court procedure either through the clerk or via a video, Take a paper and or book as you could be there for a few hours before you name is called.
Once a court is ready for you they will call 14 or 15 names, you will go into the court whereby the barristers and prosecution etc will have a look at you to make sure they do not recognise you as this would compromise their position, You will then be read a list of the names of the defendants and witnesses to make sure you don't recognise any of the peoples names that are involved.
Once this has happened the court clerk will read out 12 names, If you are called you must state "yes" to your name and take a seat in the jurors area. Once all 12 have been picked the other two or three people will be sent back to the holding area whereby they will wait for another case.
You will then be read out a list of the charges and the prosecution will begin an opening statement which can last up to an hour or so depending on charges. This will give you all the alleged incidents and give you a basis on what the trial is going to contain.
This in itself can be daunting as the defendant will be in the dock looking at you and sometimes family members too, Also you get to know what the case is about and if it is a disturbing case this can be a bit worrying understandably but try not to concern yourself with it too much.
Then the trial begins!!.
OK so this may alter slightly up and down the country I'm not really sure but usually prosecution will call upon witnesses one by one and after they have each been asked questions they will then be cross examined by the defence lawyer, They will try to trip up the witness and get them to tell different accounts thus creating a hole in their story.
You must listen carefully to each witness and the questions being asked and if it helps take notes, I took some notes as I also wanted to see the human reaction when asked a question. Now depending on the case and how many witnesses there are this could take some time, at least a couple of days, there may also be evidence given in such as CCTV or ABE videos (Achieving best evidence)
These should also be listened to very carefully as these will be more accurate as they are at or near the time of the alleged incident. Usually it takes a year or so to get to court so peoples thoughts about incidents can be muddled.
Once you have heard from defence and prosecution they will sum up their sides of the case and then the judge will sum up and give you any legal direction he feels will help you.
Once this is done then it is onto deliberation!!.
This is the time when all 12 jurors will be given stern warnings from the judge about discussing the case outside of your group and you will then be led to your jurors room which has tea and coffee facilities a big long table 12 chairs and a toilet. Your mobile phones will be taken off you and you will be stuck in that room, If cigarette breaks are needed then you all have to go and you cant leave the premises.
A foreperson will need to be elected and this is the person that will direct discussions and solve arguments as well as standing up in court and giving verdicts. This is usually the person with the most high position job or someone that is good at dealing with people. Remember there will be lots of different personalities in one room all wanting to get across their thoughts.
It can get heated and a foreperson is there to stop this and resolve any issues quickly and to make sure everyone gets their point across.
Once you have reached a unanimous verdict of 12-0 then you can let the usher know who will be sitting outside your room, he will then let the judge know and you will all be called back to the court room whereby your verdict will be given.
If you cant reach a Unanimous verdict then sometimes the judge will allow a majority verdict of 10-2 but this cannot happen until you have deliberated for a period of undetermined time, usually a few hours, You must also show that you have moved on some of your decisions.
You will then be called again and give your verdict. If you cant reach a Majority decision then the likelihood is that the case will be thrown out, you will be released of jury duty and the case will be retried with a fresh jury. Be warned this is not what anybody in court wants as people will be retried and brought to court and an average case costs between 10 and 15 thousand pounds a day!!!.
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In summery I believe that jury duty is not something to shy away from or to try and get out of, It is a worthwhile cause and also a great life experience, I'm glad to say I have done it and would do it again with no hesitation if asked. Please if you have jury duty coming up, do not panic, I know its 12 strangers but everyone is in the same boat and all of the people are generally nice and normal!!!. Enjoy and feel free to leave comments if you need questions answered, I will try my best to answer them.
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