Who qualifies for jury service?

Jury qualification

Under the Juries Act 1974, to qualify for jury service, a person must be:

  • between the ages of 18 and 70 years old;
  • registered to vote in parliamentary or local government elections;
  • a registered citizen in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least five years since their 13th birthday.

A person must not be:

  • suffering from a mental disorder; or
  • disqualified from jury service for a particular reason.

When is a person disqualified from jury service?

Certain criminal convictions will disqualify you from becoming a juror. The type of sentence, including the severity and categorisation of the crime, as well as the length of the sentence passed by the courts will determine whether or not you are disqualified from jury service and the length of time you are disqualified for.

You will be permanently disqualified from jury service if you have been sentenced in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man to:

  • imprisonment for life, detention for life or custody for life;
  • detention during her Majesty’s pleasure or during the pleasure of the Secretary of State;
  • imprisonment or detention for public protection;
  • to an extended sentence under ss 227 or 228 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 or s 210A of the Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995;
  • a term of imprisonment or detention of five years or more.

You won’t be allowed to serve as a juror for 10 years if you have, at any time in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man in the last 10 years:

  • served any part of a sentence of imprisonment or a sentence of detention;
  • 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 before turning up for jury service, you could be fined up to £5000.

Mentally disordered persons

You are not allowed to sit as a juror if:

  • you are liable to be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA 1983);
  • you are resident in a hospital on account of mental disorder as defined by MHA 1983;
  • are under guardianship under s 7 of MHA 1983 or subject to a community treatment order under s 17A of MHA 1983;
  • you lack capacity, within the meaning of the Mental Capacity Act 2005, to serve as a juror.

Lack of capacity

To have capacity a person must be able to:

  • comprehend the information that is relevant to the decision they want to make;
  • retain the information long enough to be able to make the decision;
  • weigh up the information available to make the decision;
  • communicate the decision by any means.

The right to be excused from jury service

Before April 2004, certain professionals, such as doctors and pharmacists, had the right to be excused from Jury service if they did not want to participate.

The Criminal Justice Act 2003 abolished this exception. This means that doctors and medical staff can no longer refuse to participate in jury service, but may apply for a discretionary excusal.

Members of the armed forces

Any member of any armed forces may be excused from jury service if their commanding officer provides a statement that certifies that the armed force member’s absence from service would be prejudicial to the efficiency of the service.

Discretionary deferral and excusal

If you have problems participating in jury service you may ask for your period of jury service to be postponed and reorganised for a later date.

Some of the reason the courts may grant a deferral for include:

  • you’re having an operation;
  • you have a holiday booked;
  • your boss won’t give you time off work.

You can only defer your jury service once and you’ll need to provide evidence to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau of why you can’t attend (eg, a letter from your doctor or employer or proof that you’ve booked a holiday). You must also provide the dates when you’ll be available in the 12 months after you were supposed to start jury duty.

If you can’t serve as a juror at any time during the next 12 months, you must clearly state in full your reasons on the form ‘Reply to the Jury Summons’. You may be asked to provide evidence to substantiate your claim.

The people summoned by the court to attend jury service must notify the court immediately if they cannot attend. Failure to return a jury summons form or turn up for jury service without excusal can result in a £1,000 fine.

Article written by...
Lucy Trevelyan LLB
Lucy Trevelyan LLB

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Lucy graduated in law from the University of Greenwich, and is also an NCTJ trained journalist. A legal writer and editor with over 20 years' experience writing about the law.