As some of you know I have been on jury duty for two weeks, ending today (June 8th). I really didn’t know what to expect, so for those of you yet to serve, here is my story. As Aneurin Bevan once said, “This is my truth, tell me yours”.
I had already had a deferment of service because my first call coincided with an event I was organising, so I had to attend this time. I’ve been told that if your run your own business you can get exemption, but given that I have never been called and I’m now over 50, I felt I should do my duty (and I was a little bit curious).
I was under the misguided belief that you are called for a specific trial – so that was the first lesson. You are called for a specific period and are expected to be available for service for as many trials as fit in that 2 week period. So straight away I knew we were in for an easier time than some people – the Jubilee double bank holiday was slap bang in the middle of my service period, thus reducing my service from 10 days to a likely 8, unless my final trial ran into the next week for some reason.
As my service was at Aylesbury Crown Court – just 15 minutes drive from home, it wasn’t too inconvenient, and we were called to arrive at 9:15 on the first day (Monday 28th May) for our induction. Some of the jurors had come from Milton Keynes, Great Missenden and places more than 45 minutes drive away.
Aylesbury does not hear murder or manslaughter cases (they go to Reading or Oxford apparently) and we were advised that most trials lasted 1 or 2 days normally. So in theory, if you served your full 10 days, you could have half a dozen trials!
We were inducted by a short video which gave us the basics of how the process works, and what we can (and cannot) say about our service. So you won’t read anything here for instance about specific trials. The muster room was hot and cramped – there were 16 of us in what felt like a hospital waiting room. Aylesbury CC is an old building (1793 I think) and therefore not the most modern of facilities. There are two courts – one an old traditional wood panelled job and the other one less formal and doubling as a council chamber.
By 10am we had been inducted, told where the loos and water fountain were located and advised to wait until were called. In the event we had the odd update to say no news, legal process was in play but a trail was not about to start. By 12:30 we were advised that neither trial would proceed, and we were free to go, required back at the court house the next day at 10:30.
We were back on the Tuesday morning, for more of the same – within 2 hours we were advised to go home as we were not required. I got a voice mail later that day to say we were not required on Wednesday, and that we were on call – meaning we had to call the court house every day after 4:30pm to see if we would be required.
I called on Wednesday – not required for the Thursday, and similarly on the Thursday evening – not required on Friday. This worked out rather well for me because I booked (provisionally) two lunch time meetings – one each on Thursday & Friday – and I was able to make them. Although very disruptive to my normally busy meeting schedule, I had time to catch up on paperwork and phone calls and emails – and whilst waiting in the court house the first two days I read business plans, used my iPad and generally acted as if I was at work!
So by the end of the first week, I had been in the court house for a total of about 5 hours, seen no trials! With a 4 day weekend, I called on the Friday night to find that I was required on the Wednesday after the Jubilee.
When we arrived we were now second weekers – a new group of jurors was being inducted and there were two trials on the slate for that day. We were moved “upstairs” to the jury retiring room which is designed for 12 people (and has 12 chairs). There were 16 of us, so we sat in the corridor, and waited. Once again we were told that legal process was being undertaken… and then finally about 12:30 we were told the trial would not go ahead and we were free to go! Ironically the first weekers – the noobs who started that day – got a trial!
We were also advised we would be required on Thursday (yesterday – June 7th) and turned up again at 9:50. By 11:30 we were told the trial was going ahead and duly trooped into the court. The selection process is nothing complicated. All 16 names on cards, the cards are shuffled, the names read out, and the jury is sworn in. The defendant can object before they are sworn in. So out of the 16 jurors available, 12 are picked. And I wasn’t one of them! So we 4 trooped out and had to wait to make sure the trial started without the jurors declaring they knew the defendant or witnesses (they didn’t) and we 4 were sent home! Yesterday afternoon I got a voicemail to say that there was no need for me today (Friday 8th) and my service was complete!
So week two, only 3 days, I spent about 5 hours in the court house, about 20 minutes in a court room (but not selected), and my service is complete. I cannot be called again for 2 years.