Monday, 14 December 2015

Summoned to Jury Service

Well I never! I was thinking only this morning about Jury Service, and how odd it was that, at the venerable age of sixty-three, and having been a householder for thirty-five of those years, I had never so far been selected for this most important civic duty. And then I come home to find this Summons waiting for me!

It really was on pink paper, by the way. How very girly! Presumably men get a Summons on blue paper.

I had long resigned myself to never serving on a jury. And yet I'd always badly wanted to. It had always seemed like an honour to be selected, an acknowledgement that you were deemed fit to decide the guilt or innocence of others - surely the very essence of Responsible Citizenship. Despite dying young at thirty-nine, my brother had been able to serve, no doubt with distinction. But not me. I'd felt overlooked. In fact, I'd begun to wonder whether I'd somehow slipped through whatever net they use to find jurors. Surely they'd choose me one day, a woman of unblemished good standing? And not make do with the devious, the unwilling and the unfit? But the years had passed, the disqualifying age of seventy had drifted ever closer, and I gave up worrying about it.

But all that is now changed.

I have filled in the reply form and will post it back tomorrow. Nothing on that form, nor the Guide to Jury Service that came with it, suggests that a reason will yet be found to disqualify me from doing my bit for justice. So I expect to have the Summons confirmed.

At the moment, I am bound to turn up at Hove Crown Court on Monday 8th February, and then every day for a period that may last two weeks, but could be longer. Hmm, that'll mean catching a train around 8.00am each day. In winter. Well, when working I used to catch one around 7.00am, so what am I complaining about? And they do reimburse the cost of second-class rail fares. And they'll pay me a small amount for subsistence each day. What's there not to like?

I will go prepared with home-made sandwiches and a book or two to read. Back in 2005, some months after retirement, I agreed to be a witness in a Revenue tax case at Bromley Crown Court. I was there all day, and called to give evidence only at 4.30pm. That was a long and rather boring wait. And the catering arrangements were not optimal. Nor was it possible to chat much. I expect broadly the same this time.

I won't be able to discuss the cases of course. Not with anyone. Not ever. I expect the defendants will be a string of petty thieves and fraudsters, nothing very exciting. But I will never be able to say. I will however give the evidence my full attention, however unsavoury it is, and hope to learn more about human nature. So if I emerge from this experience sadder and wiser, and sighing a lot, you'll know that I learned much.

I am methodical and alert to what matters. I'd say I'm pretty good at separating the believable from the incredible, hard fact from mere persuasion, and arriving at a conclusion based on proper evidence, not just a hunch, nor on too fine a balance of probabilities. And I will certainly speak up while we ponder the evidence. But I hope that someone else in the jury will display the right qualities to be Foreman or Forelady - I don't want that vital job. I wouldn't feel fitted for it. I haven't got the gift of being a good chairperson.

In fact, if I want to take an active part at all, I must try not to appear too intelligent. Barristers don't want jurors who are obviously very clever: they want impressionable minds that can follow an argument, but can't pick it apart. So I shall be quiet and subtly ditsy. Until assessing the evidence that has been presented.

You can tell that I'm looking forward to this, and mean to be conscientious. I feel I've now made it as a full member of society. It's a very important thing for me.


  1. Too many crooks out there, push for maximum punishments!

  2. Bringing a book is the one piece of advice I'd give to any juror as there's a good chance of a lot of waiting around. Good luck, if you get called.


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