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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Jury service - what happens in court and after the trial

If you're asked to do jury service and are able to, you are legally required to go to court to be part of a jury. Find out what to expect on your first day, during your time in court and your responsibilities as a juror.

Being on a jury

If necessary, you can speak to staff at the court in private

Most people find being a juror interesting and rewarding - it’s not something you should worry about doing. You don’t need to know how the legal system works.

If you have any questions or concerns, you can speak to staff at the court.

Your first day of jury service

Your jury service papers explain where to go, who to report to and what you need to bring to identify yourself. You must arrive at court at the time you are asked.

'Your role as a juror' online film

On your first day, you’re shown a film called 'Your role as a juror'. It explains what happens in the courtroom and your responsibilities.

What happens in court

The basic court process is as follows:

1. You find out if you are on a jury

Court staff should keep you updated about when you're likely to be needed in court - and give advice about using mobile phones while waiting.

You stay in the jury waiting area until a court official calls your name. Normally 15 jurors in total are called and taken into the court. The court clerk randomly selects 12 names of the people that are to form the jury.

If you're not selected, you may:

  • be chosen for another jury on the same day
  • have to come back the next day to be selected for another jury

2. The jury is 'sworn in'

If you're chosen, you must take the oath or make an affirmation - a promise to listen to the case carefully to give a fair verdict. The court will explain how to do it.

A verdict is whether someone is guilty or not guilty of committing a crime.

3. The trial begins

Evidence is 'presented' and witnesses from both the prosecution and the defence are questioned.

The prosecution acts on behalf of the victim(s) of the crime.

The defence acts on behalf of the person on trial for committing the crime - the ‘defendant’.

You can take notes during the trial but they cannot be taken home.

4. The spokesperson (foreman) of the jury is chosen

One person on the jury volunteers (or is chosen by the jury members) to be the foreman or forewoman. They speak on behalf of the jury.

5. The verdict is given to the court

Once all the evidence has been presented, you leave the court with the other jurors to discuss the evidence. This is done privately in a room called the ‘deliberation room’.

The jury comes back into the courtroom and the spokesperson is asked to ‘deliver’ the verdict. This means they tell the court what decision the jury has reached.

Sometimes, the members of the jury cannot all agree whether the person is guilty or not guilty. If this happens, the judge explains what happens next.

It’s possible that no decision is reached. If this happens, there’s usually a new trial with a new jury.

If the jury’s verdict is not guilty, the defendant is freed and the case ends.

If the jury’s verdict is guilty, the judge decides on the sentence.

Your responsibilities as a juror

Jurors must not discuss the trial on websites like Facebook or Twitter

Once the trial begins, you must not discuss the case with anyone, except the other jury members in the jury deliberation room.

Even when the trial’s over you must not discuss what went on in the deliberation room with anyone, even with family members.

If you do, you are in 'contempt of court' and can be fined.

Social media websites

You must not discuss or post comments about any trial on social media websites like Facebook or Twitter - even after the trial has finished. This is contempt of court.

If anyone approaches you about the trial

If anyone approaches you about the trial you must tell a court official or a police officer (if it happens outside court).

If you find the trial distressing

You may hear (or see) evidence which upsets you and want to speak to someone about your feelings during or after jury service. If this happens, speak to court staff who can give you advice.

You could also talk to someone in confidence about your feelings (but not the details of the trial itself). Apart from people such as family and friends, you may find it helpful to talk to the Samaritans.

The Samaritans is a charity experienced in giving confidential emotional support to people - including jurors who are distressed following a court trial.

Contacting the court after jury service

You can contact the court where you carried out your jury service. This could be to:

  • ask about your claim for allowances
  • give feedback, or complain about your experience as a juror

Additional links

Your role as a juror

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

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