Jury service

What is jury service and what does it involve?

Jury service is an obligation on qualifying UK citizens to serve on panel of 12 jury members who are tasked with reaching a fair verdict in a civil or criminal court case. Trial by jury is considered the foundation of a democratic legal system as the appointed jury panel is supposed to represent a cross-section of society.

Who qualifies to sit on a jury?

You are not eligible to sit as a juror if you:

  • are detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (MHA 1983) or lack capacity, under the Mental Capacity Act 2005;
  • are aged under 18 or over 75 (in England and Wales);
  • are not registered to vote;
  • have not been a resident in the UK, Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least five years since your 13th birthday;
  • have served a prison sentence in the last 10 years;
  • are currently on bail.

How will I be called for jury service?

The 12 members of a jury are selected at random from the electoral register. If you’re selected, you will receive a jury summons informing you of your requirement to attend, as well as the date and time on which your service will begin.

You must complete and return the form included with the jury summons within seven days. You can be fined up to £1,000 if you don’t return the form or turn up for your jury service.

You will not receive any details of the case, or those involved in the case until you begin jury service, which is around nine weeks after the initial jury summons.

What types of cases will I serve on?

There is no restriction on the type of case you can be required to hear as a juror. The cases can be civil or criminal, but no case will require legal knowledge. The role of a jury is to consider the evidence presented and make a decision based on that. The legal insights will be provided to you by the judge and lawyers for both sides of the case.

How long do I need to serve for?

Jury service usually lasts around 10 working days but can sometimes take longer. If a case is expected to last for an extended amount of time, you will be notified in advance.

Will I be forced to take time off work?

You are usually expected to attend jury service during your normal working hours. Your employer must release you to attend jury service or they can be found in contempt of court.

It is illegal to punish someone for their involvement in jury service. If you have been treated unfairly (such as denied promotion or dismissed) you can challenge this at employment tribunal.

You should inform your employer that you have received a jury summons as soon as possible and make arrangements for your expected absence from work. This will help avoid any problems for both you and your employer.

I can’t afford to leave work for jury service

Your employer is not legally obliged to pay you while you are on jury duty. However, you can claim expenses incurred in the course of jury duty such as travel and food costs, and accommodation where necessary. You can also ask your employer to complete a Certificate for Loss of Earnings form, which will compensate for any lost earnings. There is a limit on how much you can claim in this way.

Can I opt out of jury service?

If you are summoned for jury service, you are legally obliged to attend unless you have a good excuse.

You may request that your jury service be deferred to a more convenient time. However, this can only be done once, and for no more than 12 months from the original date of summons. 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).

If you are unable to serve as a juror for any of the next 12 months from the date of your summons, you must clearly state your reasons on the form accompanying your jury summons. You may be asked to provide evidence to back up your claim.

You are also exempt from jury service if you have served on a jury within two years prior to the date of a jury summons.

Article written by...
Nicola Laver LLB
Nicola Laver LLB

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A non-practising solicitor, Nicola is also a fully qualified journalist. For the past 20 years, she has worked as a legal journalist, editor and author.