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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Jury service - what it is

Jury service is something that some people may be asked to do in their lifetime. Being on a jury is a 'civic duty' and helps decide the outcome of criminal (and civil) trials in a court. Find out about being a juror in England and Wales.

What a jury does

You can't volunteer to do jury service

A jury decides whether someone is innocent or guilty of committing a serious crime - like murder, rape, burglary or fraud.

You may be asked to be on a jury at a civil trial - like a personal injury case.

A jury is made up of 12 members of the public, randomly selected using the electoral registers.

Once confirmed, you must arrive for jury service or you could be fined up to £1,000.

Who can be selected for jury service

You may be asked to do jury service if you:

  • are at least 18 years old and under 70 years old (at the time your jury service starts)
  • are listed on the electoral register
  • have lived in the UK for any period of at least five years since you were 13 years old

When you can’t be on a jury

The jury summons lists the main reasons when you can’t be on a jury, including if you have:

  • ever had a prison or youth custody sentence of more than five years
  • have been in prison or youth custody for any length of time in the last ten years
  • have or have had a mental health condition or mental disability

Being asked to do jury service

If you're selected for jury service, you’re sent a 'jury summons'. This tells you the time and date you need to be at court.

You must complete and return it to the Jury Central Summoning Bureau within seven days from the day you get it.

You’re then sent details of how to get to the court and what to expect once you're there.

How long jury service lasts

Jury service usually lasts for up to ten working days.

Many trials last only two or three days, so you may be on a jury for another trial.

If a case is complex (like fraud) it could take longer than ten days. You’re asked at the court if this would cause you any difficulties.

Asking to do jury service at a later date

In some circumstances, you may be able to delay ('defer') your jury service - for example, you have a holiday booked.

You must state the reason on the jury summons form.

You must also state when you’re available for jury service during the next 12 months.

You can only defer jury service once in the next 12 months.

Asking to be excused from jury service

If you can't do jury service at any time during the next 12 months you must state the reason on the form. You’re normally asked to give evidence - like a letter from your doctor about a medical condition you have.

If you have served on a jury within the previous two years you have a right to be excused.

Taking time off work

If you work, you should tell your employer straight away after your jury summons arrives. Your employer must give you time off for jury service.

There are at least four weeks between your jury summons arriving and the start of your jury service.

See ‘Time off for jury service’ to find out more.

Childcare costs - or if you're caring for someone

You can claim for child minding costs from the court if:

  • you don't normally have a child minder but need one because of jury service (it's not part of your usual childcare arrangements)
  • you do normally have a child minder but need them for more hours than usual because of jury service

The same applies if you need to employ a carer to look after someone you normally care for.

Claiming loss of earnings and other costs

Jury service is unpaid but you can normally claim an allowance for certain things up to a certain amount. This includes travel costs and loss of earnings.

You make a claim at the end of the period of jury service. On your first day, the jury manager explains how to claim your expenses.

Financial support and benefits (like Jobseeker's Allowance) are unaffected for the first eight weeks while on jury service.

If your jury service lasts longer than this, contact your local Jobcentre Plus office. You can also contact the court for advice.

Finding out more about your jury service

You can contact the Jury Central Summoning Bureau to:

  • ask any questions about your jury service - your jury summons
  • arrange a visit before your jury service starts - like if you're disabled and want to see what facilities there are at court

Telephone: 0845 803 8003 (9.00 am to 5.00 pm from Monday to Friday (local rate call)


Contacting the court where your jury service is taking place

You should contact the court for information on travelling to the court.

Additional links

Your role as a juror

Watch a video on what's involved in being a juror

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