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Jury Service - Any Advice?


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I've been selected for jury service for two weeks from next week.

I had thought I would get through life without ever having to undertake this civic duty, but unfortunately that isn't so.

So how many people on here have done it already and do you have some advice?

I'm not quite sure what to expect or even whether I'll be selected to hear any cases.

I assume I should take something to read.

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My wife did it. It was interesting but sad and harrowing as it was 2 rape cases.

My mum did it. Called in once, guy pleaded guilty, never called again.

"I am the avenging angel; I come with wings unfurled, I come with claws extended from halfway round the world. I am the God Almighty, I am the howling wind. I care not for your family; I care not for your kin. I come in search of terror, though terror is my own; I come in search of vengeance for crimes and crimes unknown. I care not for your children, I care not for your wives, I care not for your country, I care not for your lives." - (c) Jim Boyes - "The Avenging Angel"

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I've done it a couple of times. Very different experiences.

The first was at Harrow Crown Court, and we sat around for nearly the whole two weeks with virtually nothing to do. Given the current legal backlog, I doubt that'll happen to you. Still, take something to occupy your time, as there will be some long waits. Although reading material is usually available in the jury room, it's usually a rubbish selection.

The second was at the Old Bailey, and we'd barely been signed in before everyone was packed off to a trial. I ended up sitting on the jury for a murder trial, which went on for about a month, and was fascinating. Socially, it was pretty enjoyable, as some of us got to know each other during that time.

A tip if you or anyone wants to avoid a trial that lasts for ages - book a holiday that starts shortly after your statutory 2 weeks' service, and have documentation that you have done so (tickets, hotel booking confirmations etc.). That normally gets you on the list for trials that are expected to only last a few days at most.

"We are easily breakable, by illness or falling, or a million other ways of leaving this earthly life. We are just so much mashed potato."  Don Estelle

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I imagine that where you do jury service makes quite a difference to the experience. Mine was at Cambridge crown court and it seemed to me that the court officials were pretty sympathetic towards jurors who were self-employed/had childcare issues/ couldn't be spared from their dayjob and mostly those people were let go pretty quickly. They had called up many more potential jurors than they needed. I could imagine that not being the case at say the Old Bailey where they presumably have a rather higher number of potentially long trials.

Court scheduling is fairly fluid - due to last minute changes of plea, the unknown length of time each trial will take, availability of witnesses etc. So I turned up on the first couple of days, hung around for a couple of hours and was then sent away before lunchtime. We were then called into a trial, which lasted a day or two, and then told not to come back for the second week as we'd done our bit.

 

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14 minutes ago, JonM said:

I imagine that where you do jury service makes quite a difference to the experience. Mine was at Cambridge crown court and it seemed to me that the court officials were pretty sympathetic towards jurors who were self-employed/had childcare issues/ couldn't be spared from their dayjob and mostly those people were let go pretty quickly. They had called up many more potential jurors than they needed. I could imagine that not being the case at say the Old Bailey where they presumably have a rather higher number of potentially long trials.

Court scheduling is fairly fluid - due to last minute changes of plea, the unknown length of time each trial will take, availability of witnesses etc. So I turned up on the first couple of days, hung around for a couple of hours and was then sent away before lunchtime. We were then called into a trial, which lasted a day or two, and then told not to come back for the second week as we'd done our bit.

There's a huge backlog in the courts, so the chances of being kept busy are a lot higher than usual. In my first stint, I didn't get called to an actual trial 'til the second Wednesday. I was called to a couple before that, which were then postponed almost immediately, but I did get very bored.

Edited by Futtocks

"We are easily breakable, by illness or falling, or a million other ways of leaving this earthly life. We are just so much mashed potato."  Don Estelle

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My only advice is that when you enter the courtroom, sit down with the other 11, rather than rushing to get in that box with only one seat.

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People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.

Isaac Asimov

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I've done it and found it very interesting and in some ways a tad worrying. I can certainly see how the make up of a jury could drastically alter if someone is found innocent or guilty and how a couple of strong characters can easily sway the rest into their way of thinking. I also noticed a huge difference in the quality of barrister and how that can really affect things.

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1 hour ago, JohnM said:

My only advice is that when you enter the courtroom, sit down with the other 11, rather than rushing to get in that box with only one seat.

And pay attention when you're called to attend, unlike the poor lady who walked into the courtroom with the 12 of us, before realising that she'd tagged along with the wrong jury. She was mortified, while everyone else (including the accused) tried hard not to chuckle 'til she'd left the room.

"We are easily breakable, by illness or falling, or a million other ways of leaving this earthly life. We are just so much mashed potato."  Don Estelle

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30 minutes ago, Damien said:

I've done it and found it very interesting and in some ways a tad worrying. I can certainly see how the make up of a jury could drastically alter if someone is found innocent or guilty and how a couple of strong characters can easily sway the rest into their way of thinking. I also noticed a huge difference in the quality of barrister and how that can really affect things.

You'll often find someone who's done jury duty before and, while they can be a good guide to what you're supposed to be doing, can sometimes try and take the lead in the wrong way.

Beware anyone who's a fan of courtroom drama movies and thinks they should make an emotive performance out of what should be a considered decision.

In general, you are carefully advised what to do and how. If you need help, ask your usher. That's part of their job. They've seen it all before and can be an invaluable source of advice and information. Plus, the ones I've met have been quite a bunch of characters.

Edited by Futtocks

"We are easily breakable, by illness or falling, or a million other ways of leaving this earthly life. We are just so much mashed potato."  Don Estelle

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I haven't done it myself but know people that have.

I know my mum did an armed robbery trial, I remember she said the judge was absolutely gobsmacked when they were sent away to deliberate and came back with a unanimous guilty verdict within an hour!

I also know someone who got out of jury service by saying they cared full time for their son with learning difficulties even though said son lived in an assisted living place about 25 miles away from where they lived and they visited just a couple of times a week. 

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3 hours ago, Futtocks said:

And pay attention when you're called to attend, unlike the poor lady who walked into the courtroom with the 12 of us, before realising that she'd tagged along with the wrong jury. She was mortified, while everyone else (including the accused) tried hard not to chuckle 'til she'd left the room.

Many many years ago, one of my brothers-in-law was on jury service and was late back from lunch. Judge was v. angry and if I recall correctly, issued my relative with a fine as well as a sever dressing down in court.

People who think they know everything are a great annoyance to those of us who do.

Isaac Asimov

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9 hours ago, Futtocks said:

Plus, the ones I've met have been quite a bunch of characters.

We were given dire warnings about what would happen if anyone's phone made a noise in court. We were all nervously sat in the jury's waiting room, about to go in to deliver the verdict. There was then a loud Nokia ringtone (this was a few years ago). Half the jury looked terrified and went for their pockets, only for the usher to reveal that he'd planted a phone under one of the chairs, and everyone burst out laughing.

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It's a while ago since I did it. In Cardiff, mid-nineties.

Only sat on 2 cases. First was simple and took 5 minutes to agree. Second was more complex with multiple charges. Luckily, I'd taken notes that I could refer back to. 

I think we were sent home after a week.

I also requested to affirm rather than swear on a holy book.

They gave us a training briefing at the start.

It was quite interesting and eye-opening. 

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13 hours ago, graveyard johnny said:

yes take a book although dont let the defendant see u reading this one as they walk in to court Porridge:  The Inside Story

 

I saw a film on Talking Pictures the other day called 'Two Way Stretch' featuring Peter Sellers and Bernard Cribbins and a host of well known faces. It was about some lags planning a breakout to do a job -and then break back in. It had most of the ingredients of Porridge (lairy prisoner, soft screw/b*stard screw, dizzy governor) 

They must have used this film as an inspiration for Porridge, they just must have.

Sorry, nothing to do with jury service. Carry on.

Edited by Johnoco
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Over here your phone is taken off you when you enter the pre court room and returned to you at the end of the day's proceedings. 

On the jury I was on one girl at the start said he is guilty I have nothing more to say and neither she did the remaining 5 or 6 days. The rest of us found him innocent on both charges 11-1.

I noticed the quality of the free lunches improved the longer the case went on.

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Depending on the case, I'd also be careful how you get to and from the court. A mate of mine was on the jury at a murder case in Bradford quite some years back. Unbeknown to him it was drug gang related and he was followed home once and they attempted to intimidate him into giving a certain verdict. 

Unlikely to be the same scenario in your case but just a thought. 

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40 minutes ago, Martyn Sadler said:

For those of you who have done it, how does the jury elect its chairman, or chairwoman?

On a more serious point, when my father did Jury Service it was a bit like the Project Manager selection in the first episodes of The Apprentice. Everyone gave a brief synopsis of who they were and then as a group they decided that the middle aged man in a suit was their choice. 

 

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