But in truth, neither case - while serious enough to have been at a Crown Court - was the sort that would have featured in a local newspaper or attracted much attention. So unlikely to have ever featured in my blog here (well, the second one might, if we'd had a court reporter - it was a total car-crash, with the defendant sacking his brief & electing to represent himself on day 2, which seems not to be as unusual as you might suppose).
Both clearly didn't heed the '...but it may harm, your defence if you fail to mention, when questioned, something you later rely on in court...' part of the caution. Both defendants would have been, shall we day, very familiar with it, as it transpired after both 'guilty' verdicts were delivered. Both defendants were idiots who dug themselves deeper with every word out of their mouths. Defence must be quite a thankless task at times, despite the tendency of the court system to go easy on such fools.
Both were a total waste of the court's time, which the first judge (a real character, just what you imagine a judge should be!) had no hesitation in informing the guilty party, at scathing length, after verdict was delivered!
So what can I tell you? Well...
- You will hear from everyone who has done it that there's a lot of sitting around. They are NOT kidding! I'd estimate, of the 9 days duty, only 15-20% was spent in court or deliberating. The rest of the time was spent waiting to be called, or after becoming part of a sitting jury, waiting for court to start or twiddling our thumbs in the jury room while a point of law is debated. Take enough books. In fact, look at what you have chosen as 'enough books' and then double it. It still might not be enough. If you aren't a reader then, boy, I hope you are an 'I Spy' champion. People do leave magazines & books & jigsaw puzzles (and some cards, etc) for such unfortunate souls, but that's it. We had a TV in one room, but someone had stolen the aerial so you could only play DVDs...
- You will hear from EVERYONE involved - the court bailiffs, the admin staff who check you in and out at the start, the judge who addresses you at the end of trial - that the justice system appreciates your patience and your service. And they really, really mean this. However this will not translate to comfortable conditions for you from the HM Courts system (unless you are lucky enough to serve at a modern, newly-built court) - don't be surprised to find shabby, too-small rooms, poor food, clean but poorly-repaired, often-broken toilet facilities, etc.
Did I learn anything I didn't already know or suspect about jury service? Well, yes:
- The court staff (apart from the court bailiff) never introduce themselves by name - there's no 'I'm Judge John Deed and prosecuting today will be...' at the start. You may learn the names if the judge or their oppo refer to 'My colleague XXX' but there is no 'introduction' as such, except to each's role. I found that quite odd. I'd have no idea if either of my two showed up in a news report about 'idiot judges!' subsequently (unlikely with the first chap, the jury's still out on the lady in the second!).
- The jury always sit in the same seats for the duration of the trial, except when the foreman is elected as he/she then takes position one. I didn't know that, it's the sort of little detail no-one ever mentions!
So...was it worthwhile?
Yes. Yes, it really was. Don't try to get out of it if you are called, it really is worth the inconvenience (and if self-employed, the money!) it will undoubtedly cost you. Thankfully, both cases I sat on had sensible jurors who really took their responsibilities seriously. May it be so for you too, should you be called.
Thank you for the advice, should I ever need it.
As a workaholic, a smoker and insomniac, it's not something I'd welcome doing. The concept of being forced to do something and to be somewhere at a specific time is unattractive unless thee is something in it for me.
I wonder if they grant clemency for frequent business travellers - but it seems highly unlikely.
My experience of jury service was a little different.
There was no time for boredom as I was put on a major case on the day I arrived.
The jury that I was part of was made up of 9 part batshit crazy liberals and 3 parts sensible - how some of the 9 ever made it that far in life I have no idea.
Strangely, I still (only just) believe in the jury system for all the faults on display however, having to stand on the tube platform with relatives of the person you've just sent down standing behind you is somewhat sobering.
The best part was watching the Judge tear a strip off one of the barristers - a set piece that wouldn't have been out of place in any episode of Rumpole.
My experience explains some of the strange verdicts I hear and read about.
I was on jury duty here in Washington state. They had a pretty sensible system. When you are called, you are placed on jury duty for 2 weeks, like you. However, on the first Monday they got together the (about) 200 people called for that 2 week session. They put us in 15 groups and we were told to remember our group number. Each night you would call a number and they would tell you which groups had to show up the next day. I only had to actually go in about 4 or 5 of the 10 days. Smart system.
@ Anon 13:13
"I wonder if they grant clemency for frequent business travellers - but it seems highly unlikely."
I've found the authorities tolerant if the reason is plausible.
I was called to jury service but it was the week I was to start a new job. I explained this and requested a 'postponement' to which they immediately agreed. That was a decade ago, and I've still not heard from them when I'll get the call-up.
I'm in the UK but, like Davefrom Tacoma, I didn't always have to go in. After the first day I had to phone after a certain time in the afternoon to see if I had to go in the next day and and for days on end they said I didn't need to attend.
At the beginning, they said that if anyone had a really important appointment/meeting whatever then we could get a day off if we weren't part way through a trial. As it happened I did have such a meeting on the second Wednesday and they were a bit peeved as they had me down to start a trial then but accepted it.
Ultimately, I'd not ended up on a case but at least had only had to haul myself 20 miles on a train each way and be bored to tears once or twice.
In one way I regret the experience of not having been on a jury, yet, but I would take the responsibility of convicting someone very seriously and unless they were an obvious ratbag would find it difficult.
Julia, now you have the justice system from that side you should try it from the other.
Go into your local station and introduce yourself as a journalist and ask for a ride-along for a few shifts.When I worked at a Central London station we often took reporters out with us.The best ones to take out were the foreign ones visiting the BBC.When they saw how soft we were on criminals it certainly opened their eyes.
I have been called up for jury service both here and in Oz. The first Oz case was a murder trial and I was part of the original 12 by ballot of over 150. Fortunately, I was rejected by the defence barrister and sent home never needing to reappear.
Back here was one of best experiences of my life. The second case hinged around mens rea. There was no evidence that the defendant knew the goods were stolen so he was clearly innocent in the eyes of the law and the judge heavily hinted such in his summing up. To my amazement, nine of the jury failed to understand mens rea and called him guilty. Two nervous youngsters and myself stood the other way and would not back down despite the initial pressure. As the life experienced 40 something, it befell me to explain the mistake. Six good people, who I respect to this day, were prepared to listen and changed their minds but three remained intransigent.
I believe the jury system a damned good thing. However, it is a shame that a 10:2 majority verdict is accepted. The first case was a twenty minute unanimous decision with no reason for dissent by any party. We then had a cup of tea before returning to the court as we thought the decision embarrassingly quick. Jaded would probably, and maybe rightly, disagree but I live in a fairly sensible area.
If anyone reading this is called up, do it. It's a rare real duty in life. And, please, take it very seriously once you are in that courtroom.
It is also a good time to reflect on Lawful Rebllion freedom fighters who want the justice/law system along with the government destroyed because of loopholes in the magna carta and replaced by......well that bit gets all fuzzy and hippy but the gist is everyone can get along just fine without interference and we can do as we want.
Do lawful Rebellion loony bloggers really belive this shite.....hell no, but there are always drones who get sucked into beliveing it, or maybe they are taking the piss too...who knows.
Any seat can be used by the foreman. I agree jury service is worthwhile if only to experience the drama of real live court, the fear and terror of the wrongly accused in a sex trial , the jury shit themselves too on the right verdict, lawyers are on edge and get rattled, judges get wound up.
I walked in pretty relaxed and curious and within 30 seconds of being sworn in on the first trial, got a bit of a shock when it turned out to be a fucking serious matter this jury lark.
Don't dodge jury service...I was told if you don't answer the demand letter in the very first instance its highly unlikey the courts will chase you up...shame cos its worthwhile experience to find out whats going on behind the scenes the local crown court
I did three weeks of jury service in the early 90s.
My main memories are of boredom, inactivity and general ineptitude. I can't recall a single juror who wasn't either dolescum or public sector (as I was at the time); there were a few who were clearly unable to grasp much of what was happening. I hope I never have to appear in court.
The first two cases I sat on barely lasted an hour each before being thrown out: it was an absolute scandal that such ill-prepared cases (almost two years old and lacking properly prepared statements, etc.) had been brought before the court.
The final case was little better: there was a sort of victim who had suffered an injury at a rowdy house party, but the shoddy preparation and pitiful performance of the barrister (think Harry Worth in a wig) meant it was only ever going to end in an acquittal. This charade dragged on for a week but should have been put out of its misery much sooner.
The experience was interesting anthropologically but ultimately depressing.
"I wonder if they grant clemency for frequent business travellers - but it seems highly unlikely."
It is! We were advised that they aren't likely to do so without a VERY good reason.
"...however, having to stand on the tube platform with relatives of the person you've just sent down standing behind you is somewhat sobering."
Only our first case had any relatives. And I don't think they were very surprised by the verdict. We also had an Irascible Judge - he was great!
" I only had to actually go in about 4 or 5 of the 10 days. Smart system."
That's a LOT smarter than ours!
I think there was only 100-120 of us - is the 'extra' called to account for the ability of counsel over there to challenge jurors?
"...and I've still not heard from them when I'll get the call-up."
"...but I would take the responsibility of convicting someone very seriously and unless they were an obvious ratbag would find it difficult."
With both of ours, it was pretty cut & dried, thankfully.
"Julia, now you have the justice system from that side you should try it from the other."
Jaded, for a minute there, I thought you meant the dock!
"Fortunately, I was rejected by the defence barrister..."
Both defendants were told - as we were about to take the oath - that they could object & the judge would decide if their reason was good enough. But neither did.
"We then had a cup of tea before returning to the court as we thought the decision embarrassingly quick."
Ditto on the first one!
"...shame cos its worthwhile experience to find out whats going on behind the scenes the local crown court"
"I can't recall a single juror who wasn't either dolescum or public sector (as I was at the time)..."
That's mostly what I was afraid of, but on both occasions, turned out to be very far from the case.
"...it was an absolute scandal that such ill-prepared cases (almost two years old and lacking properly prepared statements, etc.) had been brought before the court. "
There was a fair bit of this about the second one due to the leniency of the judge in allowing the cretin to 'defend' himself.
But as she said, it was his right, after all...
I'm attending jury service for the first time here in England in the morning within 9 hours actually I best get some sleep wish me luck!
Oooh, good luck! I hope you get a good one early in!
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