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.