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Legal System | Criminal Courts

Jury: Selection

Model Answer | A Level

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Describe how jurors qualify and are selected to serve on a jury

Jury service is a public duty and failure to respond to a summons lead to £1000 fine. Around two hundred thousand people perform jury duty each year. The Morris Committee Report led to reforms of the jury system and Juries Act 1974 which establishes jurors must be aged 18 - 70 years old, on the electoral register and have lived in the UK for any period of at least five years since the age of 13.

The limited criteria for disqualification are set out in Criminal Justice Act 2003. A person summoned is disqualified if on bail for a criminal offence, has been sentenced to five or more years imprisonment, has had a conviction in the past ten years, has certain mental health problems or if a judge considers they are not be able to carry out duties (such as deafness or insufficient understanding of English).

Anyone summoned can apply for deferral on the basis of a sufficient reason such as exams, a pre booked holiday or hospital appointment. An alternative date is given within the next twelve months. Most applications are successful and there is a right to appeal a decision. Excusals are only available in exceptional circumstances and mean a person is excused from jury service for twelve months. Excusals can be made if a person has been on jury service in past two years or has served on a particularly distressing case (as in Soham Murders Trial). Discretionary refusal can be made for those over 65 years old, whose religious beliefs are incompatible with jury service, are full time members of the armed forces, certain members of the medical profession or MPs and MEPs.

The Jury Central Summoning Bureau (JCSB) makes a random selection from the electoral register. A jury summons is sent out with details of time and date a person is required to attend court. The summons must be completed and returned to the JCSB within seven days.

Vetting occurs to check jurors before they can sit on a particular case. A list of potential jurors is made available to the prosecution and the defence, in accordance with the Article 6 right to a fair trial in the European Convention on Human Rights. Vetting aims to ensure the jury are not corrupt or biased and includes a criminal records office check to eliminate those who are disqualified.

Those summoned wait in the jury waiting area until a court official calls fifteen jurors who will be taken into the court, the court clerk will randomly select the names of twelve - these people will form the jury. Chosen jurors must take the oath or make an affirmation to promise to listen the case carefully and give a fair verdict.

In court, the prosecution and defence have the right to challenge the entire jury, a challenge to the array, on the basis it is unrepresentative, under Section 5 of the Juries Act 1974. In Fraser, an ethnic minority background defendant successfully challenged an all white jury. However, in Ford it was held a jury selected randomly could not be challenged on the basis it was not multi-racial. A challenge for cause can be made against an individual juror, if known to a witness or defendant.

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