The jury selection process
All Crown Courts have an official responsible for summoning the jurors to hear a case. They arrange for the jurors’ names to be selected from the electoral register. This is an automatic process, randomly done by the computer at a central office.
The people summoned by the court to attend jury service have to notify the court immediately if they cannot attend. Failure to return a jury summons form or turn up for jury service can result in a £1,000 fine.
Jurors that have agreed to serve on a jury will be expected to attend for 10 working days. If the case should extend beyond the two-week period, jurors are also expected to stay beyond their service.
Where it is known or expected that a particular case is likely to go on for longer than two weeks, the selected jurors will be informed by the courts beforehand.
Under the Juries Act 1974, to qualify for jury service you must be:
- aged 18-70;
- registered to vote;
- resident in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least five years since their 13th birthday;
- not mentally disordered or disqualified from jury service.
You will be permanently disqualified from jury service if you have been sentenced to:
- life imprisonment;
- imprisonment or detention for public protection;
- an extended sentence;
- five years or more prison or detention.
You won’t be allowed to serve as a juror for 10 years if at any time in the last 10 years you have:
- served a prison sentence;
- received a suspended sentence;
- had a community order or other community sentence imposed on you.
You are also disqualified from sitting as a juror if you are currently on bail in criminal proceedings.
If you’re a disqualified person and you fail to tell the court this and turn up for jury service, you could be fined up to £5000.
The parties to any jury trial have the right to look at the panel list from which the jury in their trial will be chosen. This allows them to make enquiries about panel members and decide whether any should be challenged.
Routine police checks
A Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check is automatically carried out on each juror to ensure there is no disqualified juror sitting in the jury.
Authorised jury check
In exceptional cases – eg, those that involve national security issues – a more detailed check may be needed. This may involve a CRB check, Special Branch records check and a Security Services check. Such checks are only carried out with the permission of the Attorney General.
The selected jurors are most commonly divided into groups of 15 and then assigned to a court case. The court clerk will select 12 out of the 15 potential jurors at random to sit on the jury.
If any of the jury members know or recognise the parties to the hearing, they must inform the court. The judge then decides whether this jury member should stand down or proceed. If the court requires the juror to stand down, one of the remaining three jurors will fill the space.
Paying the talesman
If there are not enough jurors on the day to sit trial in all the courts, there is a special power available to the courts to select anyone qualified to be a juror passing in the street or even from local offices and businesses. This is what is called paying the talesman.
Challenging the jury
Once the court clerk has selected the final 12 jurors, they will then enter the jury box to be sworn in as jurors. Prior to this, once the jurors enter the court, both the prosecution and defence council can challenge one or more of the jurors.
The two challenges both the prosecution and defence can claim are:
- To the array, and
- For cause.
To the array
The right to the array will challenge the jury on the basis that it has been chosen in an unrepresentative or biased way.
A challenge ‘for cause’ will challenge an individual juror’s right to sit on the jury. For such a challenge to be successful, the challenging party will have to provide a valid reason why the juror in question should not sit on that case. An obvious reason is if the juror has been disqualified for a particular reason. Another reason would be if any witness, or other party to the court proceedings know or is related to the juror. If such jurors are not removed from the jury, there is the potential for the case conviction to be quashed due to a miscarriage of justice.
Prosecutions right to stand by jurors
This right is exclusive to the prosecution. It allows the juror that has been stood by the prosecution to be placed at the back of the line of potential jurors and will therefore only be used if there are not enough jurors.