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Jury service

This information applies to Scotland only

Being called for jury service

If you are called for jury service you will usually have to serve at a criminal trial, but you can be called to serve at a civil trial.

Criminal trials take place in either the High Court or the sheriff court depending on the seriousness of the crime. Civil trials with a jury only take place in the Court of Session.

Generally, both types of trial proceed in the same way. There is a lot of helpful information about the court system and going to court as a juror on www.scotcourts.gov.uk.

Summoning the juror

To be selected for jury service your name is selected at random from the electoral register. You will then receive two legal documents. These are a notice to potential jurors which you must read carefully to check if you are able to sit on a jury. Some time later you will get a jury citation if you are legally allowed to sit on a jury.

Notice to potential jurors

The notice to potential jurors tells you that you may be called for jury service at some point in the near future. You are being asked to be part of a 'pool' of people who can be called. There is a list of types of people on the notice that are disqualified from being on a jury. There is also a list of people who are not eligible to serve on a jury, for example, a police officer.

If you are allowed to serve on a jury you must let the Clerk of Court know of your holiday arrangements or other commitments in the next twelve month period.

If you don't return this form completed you can be fined.

Application to be excused from the jury because you are ineligible or disqualified

You must let the Clerk of the Court know if you are not allowed to be on a jury because you are either ineligible or disqualified. You can do this on the form claiming exemption that you receive with the Notice to Potential Jurors.

Application to be excused from jury service on other grounds

You may wish to apply to be excused from jury service. You can do so if you have served on a jury quite recently. You can make this application on the prescribed form for excusal or exemption.

If you have a medical condition or ailment that would make it difficult or impossible for you to serve as a juror you should contact the court immediately. You may have to provide a medical certificate.

Jury citation

If you are not excluded from serving on a jury you should receive the Jury Citation, approximately four weeks prior to the trial date. lt will give you information about where and when to attend the court. The citation should also include information on details of current allowances, the claim form for allowances and details of the jurors' court helpline.

You should take the citation with you to court.

Who is disqualified from serving

You will be disqualified from serving on a jury if at any time in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man you:-

  • have been sentenced to imprisonment for life or for a term of 5 years or more, or
  • have been sentenced to be detained during Her Majesty's, the Secretary of State's or the Governor of Northern Ireland's pleasure, or
  • have served any part of a sentence of imprisonment or detention of 3 months or more, or been detained in a borstal institution and not rehabilitated for the purposes of the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, or
  • have been on bail in, or in connection with, criminal proceedings in any part of the United Kingdom, or
  • have been convicted of an offence and the penalty of a probation order, drug treatment and testing order, community service order, restriction of liberty order, supervision order, curfew order or attendance centre order was imposed and is not yet spent.

Who is ineligible to serve

The full list of those ineligible to serve on a jury will be listed in your citation. Those ineligible to serve on a jury include:-

  • advocates and solicitors, or
  • apprentices of and legal trainees employed by solicitors, or
  • officers and staff of any court, or
  • constables of any police force, or
  • police cadets, or
  • members of children's panels, or
  • someone who is receiving compulsory medical treatment for mental disorder and is detained in hospital for that treatment, or
  • someone who is receiving medical treatment for mental disorder and is under guardianship because s/he cannot manage her/his affairs.

Who can serve on a jury

Criminal trials

To be qualified to serve on a jury for a criminal case you must:-

  • be 18 years of age or older
  • be on the electoral register
  • have lived in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for a period of at least five years since the age of 13
  • not be on the list of people on the Notice to Potential Jurors who are either disqualified or ineligible. The list of disqualified or ineligible people includes staff of the court service and police and anyone with a criminal conviction which is not yet spent.

There is no upper age limit for serving on a jury for a criminal case, but you can be excused from jury service if you are 71 years of age or older and you do not want to serve on a jury.

Civil trials

To be qualified to serve on a jury for a civil case you must:-

  • be between 18 and 65 years of age
  • be on the electoral register
  • have lived in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for a period of at least five years since the age of 13
  • not be on the list of people on the Notice to Potential Jurors who are either disqualified or ineligible. The list of disqualified or ineligible people includes staff of the court service and police and anyone with a criminal conviction which is not yet spent.

Do I have to attend court when I am called

Excused from serving because of your occupation

You usually have to attend court but you can be excused from jury service, for example, because of your occupation if you are a politician, a doctor, a minister or in the armed forces. The full list of those who can be excused because of their occupation is:

  • member of the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Government or a Junior Scottish Minister, or
  • member or officer of either Houses of Parliament, or
  • representative to the European Assembly, or
  • full-time serving member of the forces, or
  • practising member of the medical or similar profession, or
  • minister of religion or member of a religious body, or
  • aged 71 and over and does not wish to serve on a jury for a criminal case, or
  • has previously attended court for jury service and the·period of exemption has not expired, or
  • has been excused for any other reason, and the period of excusal has not expired.

Deferring jury service

You could have your jury service deferred but you would need to show good reason, for example, you have a holiday booked. You would have to show the court some proof that the holiday was booked.

Release during the period of jury service

Generally you will not be relieved from jury service once you have been sworn in.

Conscientious objection to serving on a jury

You do not have the right to refuse to serve on a jury on the grounds that you object to jury service in principle. If you want to object to serving on the jury because of the subject matter of the case you can only be excused at the court's discretion.

Excused because of previous jury service

If you have been called for jury service in the past you do have the right to be excused if:

  • you attended court in the last two years but were not selected for the jury in a criminal trial, or
  • you attended court in the last five years and did serve as a juror in a criminal trial, or
  • you attended court within the last five years for a civil trial.

Court discretion to excuse

A court has discretion to excuse someone from serving on a jury but there needs to be a very good reason why you can be excused, for example, you have scheduled exams that cannot be changed.

Application to be excused is refused

If your application to be excused from jury service has been refused you do not have the right of appeal. When you appear in court to serve on the jury the judge usually asks if there is any reason why someone on the jury cannot serve on it. You can state your case to be excused again and the judge has discretion to excuse you.

Illness and jury service

If you are unwell on a day that you are due to be in court for jury service, you must inform the Clerk of Court as soon as possible. The contact details are on the paperwork that you get from the court but can also be found on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service website at www.scotcourts.gov.uk. You must provide a medical certificate for the court. A medical certificate that is requested from a GP for jury service is exempt from payment. You should tell the GP surgery why you need the certificate, and if you have any difficulty in getting the certificate free of charge you should refer the surgery to the law that provides for the exemption from payment of the fee: The National Health Service (General Medical Services Contracts) (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Being a juror

Selection process

When all those who have been called for jury service have arrived, the Clerk of Court will talk to you all about what is involved in being a juror. When it is known that the trial is going ahead, the Clerk will randomly select fifteen people (twelve people in a civil trial) to serve on the jury. If you are not selected, or if the trial is no longer going ahead, you could be recalled a few days later to serve on another jury. Attendance at court for the purpose of being selected for a jury is unlikely to last for more than a week. It is also difficult to estimate the exact duration of any trial.

Juror is disabled

If you have been selected for jury service and have a disability for which you need assistance you should contact the court.

Objections to jurors

During selection of a jury, an objection to a juror could be lodged by either side in the case. If it is a joint objection you may not become part of the jury. If just one side objects, a reason must be given and the judge will decide whether you should be excused or not.

Knowledge of the accused

If you have any personal knowledge of the case, know anyone involved, or if you work for the same employer as the accused but do not know the person, you should tell the Clerk of Court immediately. The judge/sheriff will decide whether you should be excused from serving as a juror or not.

Swearing in

The Clerk of Court will administer the oath. This process is called 'swearing in'. You can use a process to affirm instead of swearing the oath. Affirming means that you make a (non religious) promise before the court that you will try the case faithfully and reach a true verdict on the evidence presented. However, prior notice should be given to the Clerk if you wish to affirm.

What if I become ill

Once the trial has started, if you become unwell overnight or over the weekend and cannot return to the court, you must inform the court and provide evidence.

Confidentiality about the case

Once the trial has begun, you must not discuss the case with anyone except fellow jurors and then, only in the jury room. Mobile phones and computers are not allowed in the jury room. You will also be instructed not to look in the media for any information about the case in question. The permission of the court is needed if anyone, for example, the media or members of the public, want to use text-based devices to communicate directly from the court.

You may not leave the court during the lunch break. You must remain with the other members of the jury.

When the jury has retired to reach a verdict and has not reached one by the end of the day, it is possible that the judge/sheriff will ask you to go to a hotel. The rules about confidentiality still apply in overnight accommodation.

It is contempt of court, punishable by imprisonment or a fine, for you to discuss, for example, statements made or votes cast by members of the jury, even long after the trial has ended. It is also contempt of court for any person to try and obtain such information from a juror.

Intimidation

It is a criminal offence to intimidate, bully or attempt to influence you when you are serving on a jury. If anyone tries to do this you must report what has happened to the Clerk of Court.

Security

If you feel threatened at any time by gesture, word or action you should inform any court official or police officer immediately.

The jurors' court helpline

Most courts have a helpline to keep jurors updated on the progress of the trial. Details and the number of the helpline will be in the citation.

Sequence of events

The judge will explain to you what is going to happen. Witnesses are brought before the court to give evidence. Each witness is questioned by the Crown who is prosecuting the case and by the defence. The accused is also called to give evidence. You will have paper and a pencil for taking notes about the evidence presented to the court. There is more useful information about the trial process on www.scotcourts.gov.uk.

When all the evidence has been presented and the judge/sheriff has addressed the jury, s/he will ask you to retire to the jury room, appoint a spokesperson and consider your verdict.

The verdict

When the jury reach an agreement either as a majority or unanimously you return to court to give the verdict.

In a criminal trial there are three verdicts open to the jury: guilty; not guilty and not proven. Not guilty and not proven both mean that the accused cannot be tried again for that offence unless there is new compelling evidence, the original trial was tainted with intimidation or harassment of witnesses or the accused admits guilt after the trial. If the verdict on any charge is guilty there must be at least 8 jurors in favour of that verdict. The judge decides on the sentence for the accused although may not do so immediately.

In a civil trial the jury will be asked if they have reached a verdict. If they have, they will then be asked a number of questions, for example, is the pursuer liable and if so, to what extent.

Financial arrangements

What you can claim

You will not be paid for jury service but will be reimbursed subject to a maximum daily amount if absence from work causes you:-

  • to lose earnings
  • to pay a substitute to do your job
  • to incur any other necessary expense, for example, a childminder.

You are also entitled to claim travelling expenses, a subsistence allowance for food and drink and for any loss of National Insurance contributions you may have incurred. As many courts provide meals you may not need to claim the subsistence allowance.

A full list of what you can claim is covered in the website of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

If you have attended the court but not been selected, you are entitled to claim expenses subject to the specified limits. You can either claim expenses before leaving the court or send your form at a later date.

Jurors' allowances

Details of the rates of these allowances will be contained in the juror's citation.

Financial loss allowance

If you suffer any loss of earnings because you are serving on a jury, you can claim an allowance up to a maximum level. Details are available on the website of the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service.

Travelling allowance

You can claim the cost of the journey between home and the court, for example, the cost of a return bus or train fare. If you travel by bike or private car you can claim a maximum rate per mile. In an emergency or when there is no public transport, the court may pay the cost of a taxi.

When to claim expenses

You can claim for loss of earnings or expenses at the end of the period of jury service. The expenses claim form is on the back of the citation. Payment is made by a crossed cheque sent to your home address within 7 to 10 working days.

Childminding expenses

If you employ a baby-sitter or childminder whilst serving on the jury, you will be reimbursed only if the child minder is not part of your normal childcare arrangements, or the hours you need to have covered are more than usual. A certificate from the baby-sitter or childminder stating their hourly rate must accompany the expenses claim form. This certificate can be obtained from the Clerk of Court.

If the childminder is registered by the local authority, s/he must complete a certificate giving details of her/his hourly rate and registration number. In most cases this rate will be paid. If the baby-sitter or childminder is a person other than a registered childminder, the rate payable is up to £1 an hour.

Dependent adult expenses

If you employ a sitter for an adult for whom you care whilst serving on the jury, you will be reimbursed only if the sitter is not part of your normal care arrangements, or the hours you need to have covered are more than usual. A certificate from the sitter stating their hourly rate must accompany the expenses claim form. This certificate can be obtained from the Clerk of Court.

If the sitter is registered by the Care Inspectorate they must complete a certificate giving details of her/his hourly rate and registration number. In most cases this rate will be paid. If the sitter is a person other than a registered sitter, the rate payable is up to £1 an hour.

Financial problems for jurors in employment

An employer is not obliged to pay her/his employee while s/he is on jury service unless this is specified in the contract of employment.

You can get National Insurance credits if you do not have these paid during the period of jury service. You must write to your local HM Revenue and Customs office before the end of the benefit year following the tax year in which jury service occurred, for example, if jury service was in December 2004, the tax year will end in April 2005 and the next benefit year will end on 31 December 2006.

If you find yourself in financial hardship you are not entitled to an advance of any allowance but can ask to be reimbursed travel and subsistence allowances on a daily basis in cash, rather than waiting until the end of jury service before claiming them.

Jurors on benefits

Travel, subsistence and childcare reimbursements are ignored as income for means-tested benefits.

Income Support

You can claim income support while on jury service because you are not required to be available for work. Some jurors may be working (less than 16 hours) as well as claiming income support. If you are not paid your earnings while on jury service you can claim a loss of earnings allowance. As the allowance is treated in the same way as earnings by the Department for Work and Pensions no adjustment is normally needed to imcome support.

Tax credits

If you are receiving working tax credit your payments are not affected by jury service.

Jobseeker’s allowance

A juror who is required to attend court can be treated as available for work for a maximum of eight weeks. S/he should, therefore, still be able to get jobseeker's allowance (JSA) during this time. This applies to both contribution-based and income-based JSA. If jury service lasts more than eight weeks, your Jobcentre Plus office should complete a loss of earnings certificate to allow you to apply for reimbursement. If you find that you can no longer get JSA, you may be entitled to income support instead. You should inform your Jobcentre Plus office of the dates of your jury service.

You may also have been working (less than 16 hours a week). If you are not paid during jury service,you can claim a financial loss allowance. As this is treated in the same way as earnings and attracts the same disregards, no adjustment to your JSA is normally made.

Incapacity benefit, employment support allowance, statutory sick pay, or severe disablement allowance

You may be receiving incapacity benefit, employment and support allowance (ESA), statutory sick pay or severe disablement allowance when you are summoned for jury service. You may wish to ask for discretionary excusal on the grounds of your illness or physical disability. You may however choose to serve on the jury if you feel fit enough.

Practicalities

Lunch

Lunch is provided if the case continues into the afternoon for jurors who have been selected to serve. In most courts, jurors will also have a tea/coffee break in the morning and afternoon. The majority of courts have facilities for lunch and jurors who have not been selected but whose attendance is still necessary have access to these.

Leaving the court/courtroom

When serving on a jury you cannot leave the court during the lunch break and must remain with the other members of the jury. You also may be required to stay in a hotel during the period of serving on a jury.

You should be aware that while the court is in session the jury cannot leave the court room. This means that you may not visit the toilet during the court session time.