It’s happened. The dreaded jury service summons has appeared in your mail box and you are mentally trying to figure out how many seasons of Suits you can binge watch before you have to attend. But largely you are probably thinking… Do I have to?
If you have been summoned to serve on a jury then you are legally required to attend Court on the date provided in the summons. However there are some circumstances where you can apply to be exempt or excluded from serving.
To be excluded or exempt from jury duty means that you are not allowed to serve on a jury. Generally, people who are excluded or exempt is because they work in the legal, political or criminal justice system, and because the perception that these people may attempt to examine the Law rather than make decisions based on fact, which is the role of a jury. For this same reason, people found guilty of serious offences are also excluded from service.
You can also apply to be excused from jury service. You will need a legitimate reason for being unable to serve. In some circumstances you can be excused on the basis of your job, however as jury service provides you with an allowance, it is not usually viewed as a legitimate reason. Other reasons you may be excused include: pregnancy, being a full time carer, being absent from NSW (and no you cannot book a holiday after you receive your summons!) or if you have a medical condition that will make jury service difficult.
Juries are an important part of the judicial process and are required in both criminal and civil trials. Our legal system is based around the principle that you are innocent until proven guilty. The role of a jury is to make a decision as to whether a person is guilty of a crime based on the evidence presented to them during a trial. They do not make decisions of law.
But fear not! Only about 9000 of the 200,000 people summoned for jury service each year actually end up serving on a jury. Trials are often delayed, or they don’t proceed because the person involved has decided not to take the matter to trial. In those circumstances, the jurors are usually dismissed and are not required to serve. If a trial is to proceed, then you are taken into the courtroom and if you know any of the people involved with the trial then you will be dismissed. After that, each Solicitor/ Barrister has the opportunity to dismiss three jurors each without providing any reason. So just because you are summoned, does not mean you will have to serve on a jury.
That does not mean that you do not have to attend. If you fail to show for jury service you will receive a letter asking you to explain your absence. If you fail to respond to this letter or if you do not have acceptable excuse for not showing then you can be fined an amount up to $2,200.00. That’s a fair price to pay for a few days of serving your community!
Everingham Solomons have experienced Solicitors who can assist with your Legal matters, because Helping You is Our Business.
Click here for more information on Sarah Rayner.