The letter takes you by complete surprise. You assume it is just another letter from God knows whom. But when your eyes spot the ‘Central Criminal Courts of Justice’ stamp on the back you begin to panic. What could I have done? Did I forget to pay for the Tv license or drive away from the garage without paying for petrol?
No. The letter is opened and the dreaded words “You have been summoned for Jury Duty at the Central Criminal Courts of Justice” are revealed. Suddenly you find yourself wishing the letter had been about the Tv license or forgetting to pay for petrol.
Most people believe jury service is a doss week, an excuse to get paid for doing nothing. I’d beg to differ. In fact, the majority of the time you’re sitting around drinking coffee and wishing the day would finally end.
Every day is like Groundhog Day. You walk in through large glass doors and are greeted by metal detectors and bag scanners. Once you’ve passed through security, you then have to check in for roll call. This process involves calling out every person’s name that was summoned for jury duty, which means calling out approximately 200 peoples names. Every person reacts with surprise, as though they were not expecting their name to be called and wish that somehow there has been a mistake and they might somehow be sent home to get on with their lives.
After roll call, half the people in the room flood out and go straight to the smoking area. This is an area that was once empty but now looks like a tin of sardines. There are people crammed into every corner. The other half slowly rises and head toward the complementary coffee stand, the queue standing the length of the room.
All of a sudden the room goes eerily quiet as the jury controller calls out that “the judge will be appearing on the screen so please take your seats and make sure you can see the television clearly”. On a screen that was once a blank appears a judge in a white wig, looking very serious.
If your name is called you must wait in line until fourteen jurors have been picked. You then walk behind a jury controller into the courts, where the judge is sat upon a tall podium. The defendant is left of the judge and you are brought to the right . You are then told the charges that have been put against the defendant and how long the case is estimated to last. We were only dealing with a minor charge so the maximum time we would have to attend the courts for is six to seven days.
If you are called into the courts the defendant has the right to challenge you, which means that you have been eliminated from the jury panel for that particular case. As the jurors who have been challenged walk back into the waiting areas you can just see a look of relief spread across their face.
This process lasts four long days and if you were picked for jury service in the courts you must attend for the duration of the case. If you are lucky enough to make it through the four days without being picked, you are no longer required to attend the courts, and are free to go. Attending jury service was a very interesting and unique experience. Its very time consuming, however it is worth the time to see the court process and to see how jurors are picked.