What Happens If I Am Chosen for Jury Service?
What You Need to Know
- More than 400,000 people are selected for compulsory jury service each year.
- Jury service will normally last for two weeks, however, if you become involved in a complex case it could last considerably longer.
- You are only exempt from jury service in a limited number of circumstances, such as if you are on probation or suffering mental illness.
- A number of professions, including judges and members of the armed forces, are also exempt (read on for the full list).
- Your employer doesn’t have to pay you whilst you are on jury service, but you are able to claim back your loss of earnings.
- If you are self employed you will have to prove your loss of earnings yourself, using a letter from your accountant, for example.
More than 400,000 people are randomly chosen for jury service in the UK each year – and if you’re one of them, it is more likely than not that you will have to give up at least two weeks of your life to this important civic duty.
Being summoned is not a guarantee that you will end up sitting on a jury, but there are only a few circumstances under which you can be excused. You must have a strong reason, such as academic exams or a pre-booked holiday. However, most excuses will probably only lead to your jury service being deferred.
You’ll only be considered ineligible if you have sat on a jury within the past two years, if you are on bail or have been on probation within the last five years, if you have been sentenced to prison, youth custody or community service in the past ten years, if you suffer from a mental health problem. If you hold any of the following positions, you would have been exempt in the past, and whilst now exemption is no longer automatic you may well have a good case for not being selected;
- Religious minister
- Member of the armed forces
- Member of the medical profession (including chemist or vet)
- Police or probation officer
A form to assess your eligibility will accompany the summons you receive in the post. If you don’t fit into any of the above categories, and you are aged between 18 and 70, then you must attend your local Crown Court at a given date (or you may be required at Civil Court or High Court).
Upon arrival you will join several other people arbitrarily selected from the Electoral Register. You will be instructed on how a court operates, and then 15 people will be randomly picked by court officials and shown into the courtroom. Twelve names will be called out, and if yours is one of them, you must answer “yes” and take your place in the jury box. (If you are in Scotland, you will be one of 15 jurors, not 12.)
You will be sworn in once the case’s lawyers have been given the chance to challenge your selection. (They are unlikely to do so because challenges are rare.)
You will take an oath on the holy book of your religion, or if you do not practice religion, you will be asked to ‘affirm’ – which holds the same significance as an oath.
The standard length of jury service is about two weeks. The average case lasts only a day or two, so you’ll probably be expected to sit on more than one trial.
If your first case is large and complex (centring on a murder or business fraud, for example), or experiences serious delays, you might have to spend several more weeks as a juror – or perhaps months! (The jurors on the Jubilee Line fraud trial sat for almost two years before the case collapsed in May 2005.)
Your employer does not have to pay you while you are on jury duty, unless there is a clause in your contract that says otherwise. Your employer must, however, allow you time off to perform your service. Refusal will mean that he or she is in contempt of court and could face a fine or even imprisonment.
You can claim for loss of earnings as long as your employer fills in a Certificate of Loss of Earnings, which you must take with you on your first day of court. If you are self-employed you should provide the court with some proof that you have lost earnings – a letter from your accountant, for instance.
All jurors are given a daily subsistence allowance for food and drink and can claim travel expenses and, in some cases, parking. Jurors with children can also claim for childminding expenses.
However there are caps on what you can claim, and, for many people, this can turn jury service into a real financial burden. At present these are the caps on what you can claim back whilst on jury service.
|Hours Served per Day||Days Served||Maximum Allowance per Day|
|Up to 4||1-10||£32.47|
|Up to 4||11-200||£64.95|
|Up to 4||201 +||£114.95|
|Over 4||201 +||£228.06|
- If you are interested in getting more involved in the justice system you can apply to become a magistrate. You don't need any formal qualifications but you must meet certain criteria. Read our guide on how to become a magistrate for more info.
- Jury service can have a big impact on your working life. For more advice on employment issues read our guide to giving your notice.
- The government’s site have even more advice on what being selected for jury service will mean to you.