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Around 347,000 jurors’ summons were issued in 2019, which was a decrease of 4% from 2018. The chance of being called to do jury service once in your lifetime is around 40%. Jurors are selected at random from the electoral register and there are over 45 million people on the register.
What is jury service?
When you are called to do jury service, you will sit on a trial as a juror. Usually, this will be for 10 working days. When someone is accused of a serious offence, they usually have the right to be tried by 12 members of the public. All of the evidence surrounding what happened will be looked at in court and the jury will ultimately decide whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The whole trial will be overseen by a judge. This is believed to be the best way to ensure a fair trial, and that the verdicts are unbiased and reasonable. If the jury decides that the defendant is guilty, the judge will then be responsible for sentencing the defendant.
Many investigations never get to the stage that they will need a jury as there may be insufficient evidence to charge a suspect. Even if a suspect is charged, many will plead guilty or be dealt with in a magistrates’ court. This is why being called as a juror isn’t a common experience as there aren’t many jurors needed in the criminal justice system. Usual practice is to call more jurors than are actually needed, so even if you are selected, you may never be called to court.
How does jury service work?
When you are selected to do jury service, you will be sent a jury summons. You will usually get at least 10 days’ notice so that you can make arrangements to be at court.
When your jury service begins, you will need to bring to court:
- Your jury summons or your jury service confirmation letter.
- Some identification, for example, your passport, driving licence or Home Office documents showing your immigration status.
If you do not have these documents, you can bring two documents from the following:
- Your birth certificate.
- Three utility bills with your name and address.
- Cheque book and bank card with a proof of signature.
- Credit card with three statements and proof of signature.
There are no strict rules on what you can wear to complete your jury service; however, you should not wear anything on your head unless it is for religious reasons and you should not wear anything too casual such as beachwear.
When you arrive at court, you will need to go through security and then make your way to the jury assembly area. You will then be told about jury service and what will be expected of you, your responsibilities while there and how you can claim expenses.
During the trial the jury will hear the evidence of the crime and the defence from the defence team. You, the jury, will then decide what has been proven and what has not and return a verdict of guilty or not guilty on each count. The judge will guide the jury about the law and what areas you should be focussing on as part of your deliberation. Evidence can be excluded from a trial if it is felt to be irrelevant or unfair. If there are any legal arguments, you will be sent to the jury room while it is decided what can be disclosed as part of the trial. You will also be forbidden from doing your own research and you should not base your judgement on anything you have read in the media.
The jury’s decision will usually have to be unanimous; however, sometimes a majority decision will be accepted.
You are not permitted to discuss the court case with anyone other than the other jury members in the deliberation room. You must not discuss with anyone else what is discussed in the deliberation room as this is confidential. You are not permitted to discuss or comment on the trial on social media. By doing this you could receive a fine or even a prison sentence.
Sometimes distressing or traumatic details can be disclosed during a trial and this can be difficult for jury members. If this is the case for you, you should speak to jury staff at court about what support is available for you. You can also speak to your GP about counselling if you feel you have been impacted by the trial in such a way.
How long does jury service last?
Jury service usually lasts up to 10 working days. If the trial is likely to last any longer, then you should be informed in advance. There also may be unforeseen delays making the trial overrun; however, you should be well informed of any expected delays as the trial unfolds. If the trial is shorter than 10 days then you may be asked to be a juror on another trial.
Your summons letter will give you information about what time to arrive and where you need to go. You will usually be required to attend earlier on the first day, and then on subsequent days you will be required to attend 10.00am–5.30pm Monday to Friday.
Do you get paid doing jury service?
You will not get paid for doing jury service; however, you should not be out of pocket. You can claim money back from the government if you lose any earnings, and you can also claim for expenses, for example travel.
During your time completing jury service, you will be able to claim for:
- The cost of travel to and from court.
- £5.71 for food and drink per day.
- Financial help with any loss of earnings and the cost of any childcare outside of your usual arrangements.
If you are an employee your employer can choose whether or not they want to pay you for the time you are away from work. You should discuss this with your line manager.
If your employer does not pay you as they usually would, you will be eligible to claim from the court. Your employer will need to fill in a loss of earnings form and you will need to bring this with you on your first day of jury service.
For the first 10 days of jury service, you can claim up to:
- £64.95 per day if you are in court for 4 hours or more.
- £32.47 per day if you are in court for less than 4 hours.
If your jury service lasts longer than 10 working days, the maximum amount you can claim will increase.
You will be able to claim up to:
- £129.91 per day if you are in court for 4 hours or more.
- £64.95 per day if you are in court for less than 4 hours.
Your employer must allow you to take time off work to complete jury service. If your employer is not allowing you to take time off work, you can make a complaint to an employment tribunal.
If you lose your job for taking time off to complete jury service, you may be able to make a claim for unfair dismissal.
If you are a benefits claimant, you can claim for loss of benefits if you are on jury service for 8 weeks or more. Before 8 weeks, your benefits will not be affected and you will continue to be paid in the usual way. From the 8th week of jury service onwards, you can be reimbursed up to a maximum of £121.91 per day. Completing jury service for this length of time would be extremely rare.
If you are self-employed or a company director, you will need to fill in a self-employed loss of earnings form. You will need to submit your most recent tax return as evidence of lost earnings while completing jury service. When you have completed the form, you will need to give this to the jury manager at court.
If you need to claim for childcare expenses, both you and the carer will need to fill out a form. You will be able to claim for costs outside of your usual care arrangements. If your child is being cared for by a registered childminder or other childcare setting, they will need to put their Ofsted number on the form. If a friend or family member is caring for your child while you are completing jury service, they will need to write a letter stating how many hours they have spent caring for your child. You will need to return the form to court with evidence of the cost of childcare. This could be invoices or receipts.
You will need to bring your child’s passport or birth certificate to court or attach a copy to the claim form.
You can also claim for the cost of care for elderly or vulnerable adults by using the same form.
For food, drink and travel expenses, you will need to submit your receipts as part of your claim. You can make your claim for expenses only after your jury service has finished. You should not wait any longer than 12 months after your service started to make your claim. Your claim should be paid 7–10 days after you have submitted your form.
You will be able to claim for the cost of your bus, underground or train ticket if you are travelling to court by public transport. If you are travelling to court by car, you can claim 31.4p per mile. If you are travelling to court by bicycle, you can claim 9.6p per mile. If you are travelling to court by motorcycle, you can claim 31.4p per mile. You will need to ask at the court where you are completing your jury service whether you can claim for parking. If you choose to travel to court by taxi, you will need to check with the court whether you will be eligible to claim this back.
For food and drink, you will be able to claim up to £5.71 per day if you are in court for 10 hours a day or less. If you are in court for over 10 hours, you will be able to claim up to £12.71 per day.
If you are having financial difficulties at the time of the trial and you cannot wait until after the trial to make your claim, you can speak to the staff looking after you at court about how you can claim sooner.
If you have any questions about claiming expenses, you can contact the court where you are completing your jury service.
You can check what you can claim in expenses by accessing a helpful online jury service expense calculator. This will give you an estimate of what you can claim and is for information purposes only.
Can you turn down jury service?
If you receive a summons to complete jury service and you cannot attend for any reason, you can ask for your jury service to be deferred to a different date or you can ask to be excused from completing jury service.
If you want to change your jury service to another date, you may be able to do this; however, you will have to have a good reason.
These may include:
- Having a baby to care for.
- Already having a holiday booked.
- Having a planned operation.
- You have an exam.
- It will be difficult for you to have time off work.
You should reply to your jury summons in order to request to change the date of your jury service explaining your reasons for wanting to do so. You should suggest three alternative dates in the next three months. You will only be permitted to change your date once.
If you feel that it will not be possible for you to complete your jury service in the next 12 months, you can ask to be excused. You will only be excused in exceptional circumstances.
These may include:
- Having a baby and not being available for jury service in the next 12 months.
- If you are a full-time carer for someone with a disability or serious illness.
- If you have a disability or a serious illness which would prevent you from completing jury service.
If you have a disability or mental health condition, courts are able to make some adjustments to help you while you are completing your jury service.
This could include:
- Access to accessible toilets.
- Ramps to ensure wheelchair friendly entrance ways.
- Large print, audio or braille.
- Access to a British Sign Language interpreter.
You can request for special adjustments to be made when you respond to your jury summons letter. You can arrange to visit the court before beginning your jury service. If you would like to discuss your needs, you can contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau. If your jury service has already started you can speak to the jury officer in court.
You can ask to be excused from completing jury service if you have already completed jury service in the last two years.
If you want to be excused from completing jury service, you should reply to your jury summons. You should explain your reasons for wanting to be excused in detail. You may be asked to provide evidence, for example a letter from your healthcare provider.
If you are excused from completing jury service on this occasion, you could still be asked to complete jury service again in the future.
Your request to defer or be excused from completing jury service may be refused if it is deemed that the reason you have given is not adequate enough. You have the option to appeal the decision. If you decide to appeal the decision, you should write to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau.
Their address is:
Head of the Jury Central Summoning Bureau
HM Courts and Tribunals Service
Jury Central Summoning Bureau
You should include in your letter:
- Your name, address and date of birth.
- Your juror number (you can find this on your letter).
- The dates of your jury service.
- The name and address of the court you have been summoned to.
- Details about why you disagree with the decision.
You can also contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau if you have any questions about jury service on:
- Email address – email@example.com.
- Telephone: 0300 456 1024.
- Lines are open Monday to Thursday 9am–5pm and Friday 9am–3pm.