Snaresbrook Crown Court draws its jurors from East London and its suburbs, so there was a high proportion of Cockney sparras, ethnic minorities and hard-bitten council estate mothers among our 12. It shames me to recall that, on being introduced to them, I felt a rush of intellectual snobbery and alarm. I thought they looked like people who might read Take a Break and dot their "i"s with little circles. Could justice possibly be safe in such coarse hands?You mean, instead of in the hands of your middle class, professional chums? The ones going to such great lengths to avoid it...?
There was a shock in store for little Jemima:
Fast forward two days, and the Take a Break readers are patiently explaining the prosecution evidence to me: the logistics of rapidly transferring a mobile phone number from one handset to another, and why this might be common practice among drug dealers. (For the benefit of anyone as unworldly as me: if one dealer gets arrested while working a shift, and his "dirty phone" is deactivated by police, the number is immediately transferred to whoever takes over his shift.)Oh, boy.... I bet they wanted to, though!
Being charitable sorts, they do not roll their eyes at my slow-wittedness. Nor – when the defendant changes his plea to guilty, and is revealed to be a career criminal – do they mock me for having previously protested that he had a sweet face and velvety hair such as any mother would want to ruffle.
Still, at least one member of the professional chattering classes claims to have learned a valuable lesson:
Now my civic duty is done, and I am restored to the hermetically-sealed bubble of middle-class life a tiny bit wiser. In a country as socially divided as ours, jury service is one of the few opportunities we have to get to know each other. Being locked in a room with 12 strangers you would never normally talk to on the bus is a lesson in doing justice to all your peers – not just the sweaty one in the dock.Good for her admitting to her prejudices, and recounting her embarassing mistake.
Let's see how her future columns turn out, shall we?