Written by: Natasha Poppen
Received that letter in the mail that you’re eligible for jury service? You may have not even realised you were eligible for jury service or haven’t got the faintest idea what it is or what you are required to do. Government sites aren’t always easy to navigate, so I’ve written this blog to break down the basics of jury service for you.
What is it?
If you’re on the Electoral Roll, you can be called for jury service at any time. Jury service is designed for people on trial to have their case heard by their peers in the community. This is so community values and expectations are reflected in Court decisions. While it may seem like a bore, it’s an integral part of the Australian justice system.
Initially, potential jurors such as yourself will receive a Notice of Selection from the Juries Commissioner with an Eligibility Form attached. This form determines whether you are eligible to serve on a jury. Don’t worry about the hassle – thankfully, you can fill out this form online. If you’re eligible, you will then be sent a jury summons with the date you have to attend Court.
What is a juror required to do?
A jury is formed to decide on a verdict in a Court case. As a juror, you will be required to attend Court and listen to arguments and evidence on the facts of a case, before coming to a verdict as a whole group. You will be on a panel with other jurors – the size of which depends on the Court and case being heard. A foreman is one person on the jury that is essentially the spokesperson for the group.
But I can’t be a juror, I don’t know anything about the law!
You don’t need to have any knowledge or understanding of the Court process or legal jargon to be a juror. The Judge will be there to guide you through the entire trial and explain everything you need to know about what is being presented.
Once you have been issued a jury summons, you must;
- Notify your employer
- Prepare for Court
- Bring your jury summons and identification (such as a drivers’ license)
- Organise transportation (public transport is recommended for Melbourne Courts as there is no parking provided)
- Note that you must dress appropriately for Court
- Note that you cannot bring sharp or dangerous objects into Court (similar to an airport)
- Attend Court and wait in the Jury Pool Room to be chosen at random
- When chosen, you will be taken to the courtroom and informed of the details of the case. If you cannot sit on that particular case for whatever reason, you can apply to the Judge to be excused.
- If you can attend, the parties’ legal representatives will be determined whether you are an appropriate fit for the case. If not, you will be sent home and your jury service is concluded.
- If chosen to be empanelled on the jury, your service will commence with an oath/affirmation.
How long does jury service take?
Jury service is usually from 10am to 4.15pm, although this may vary according to the needs of the case. Jury service will be required for a maximum of 7 to 10 days, according to the length of the Court trial. Most trials only take 1 to 2 days. In rare circumstances, you may be required for more than 10 days or required for overnight stays when reaching a verdict. Don’t stress about this, as you will be notified beforehand and provided with accommodation.
Can I not attend jury service?
You are legally obliged to respond to your eligibility form, regardless of whether you can attend jury service or not. Beware, you can face fines of up to $3,000 in Victoria for ignoring it! Failing to attend jury service once summoned is an offence. You need to apply to be excused or to have your service deferred. If you apply to be excused and the application is accepted, you will be granted a 12-month exemption from jury service.
Is jury service paid?
One of the biggest misconceptions people have about jury duty is that they are going to be losing income while in attendance. Jury service is a type of community service leave. You are paid $40 per day for the first 6 days, and $80 per day for longer trials. Your employer pays the difference between this and what you would have otherwise been paid for working that day.
Hopefully the above blog has cleared up some of the common confusions regarding jury service. If you have any further queries or concerns, I recommend visiting the Court Services Victoria or Juries Victoria websites for more information. You can find these services at: