If you are summonsed to attend court for jury service, you must make every effort to attend. If you are unable to attend for a legitimate reason, such as illness or carer’s responsibilities, you must apply for a deferral or apply to be excused, by filling in the form on the back of the summons.
Juries are an important part of the Victorian justice system. They provide individuals with the opportunity to learn about and participate in the administration of justice. Jurors are chosen randomly from the Victorian electoral roll. In Victoria, juries are governed by the Juries Act 2000.
Composition of juries
Juries of six are used to determine civil trials in Victoria, while juries of 12 are used in criminal trials (Section 22). In some cases, the court may order the empanelment of additional jurors – up to two extra jurors in a civil trial and up to three extras in a criminal trial. (Section 23).
All adult citizens who are enrolled to vote are qualified to be jurors. However, persons are disqualified if they have been sentenced to certain terms of imprisonment for certain offences (details set out in Schedule 1 of the Act).
A person is ineligible to serve as a juror if they have been a lawyer, judicial officer, police officer, the governor or have served in certain other public official roles.
Being excused from jury service
A person can ask to be excused from jury service for the whole or part of a jury period for any good reason, including:
- Ill health;
- The distance of travel to the court;
- Substantial hardship would result to the person from performing jury service;
- The person have carer responsibilities; (Section 8)
A person may also apply to be permanently excused from jury service (Section 9).
Empanelment of juries
When a panel of jurors is required by the court, a sufficient number of people is selected from the jury pool. The panel members must then be told the type of action or charge, the names of the parties, the names of the principal witnesses and the expected duration of the trial.
The court must excuse any person who will be unable to consider the trial impartially or who will be unable to serve for any reason (Section 32).
In civil trials, each party may peremptorily challenge two panel members. This means two panel members can be challenged without a reason.
Each party in a civil trial may challenge an unlimited number of potential jurors for cause.
In criminal trials, each party may peremptorily challenge three panel members if only one person is standing trial and two panel members if two or more persons are standing trial.
Each party in a criminal trial may challenge an unlimited number of potential jurors for cause.
Remuneration and allowances
Jurors are entitled to remuneration and allowances for attendance for jury service if they have attended court in response to a summons whether or not they actually served as a juror.
If a juror is in paid employment and misses work as the result of attending court for jury service, the juror’s employer must pay the juror the difference between the amount received as remuneration for jury service and the amount he or she would have received for working during the period of jury service.
Offences and enforcement
The Juries Act creates a number of criminal offences relating to jury service. These include supplying false or misleading information in order to avoid jury service (Section 70), failing to attend for jury service without a reasonable excuse (Section 71) and publishing the contents of a jury’s deliberations (Section 78).
After a person has completed their jury service, they receive remuneration and a certificate of exemption from jury service for a period of time, usually three years, but sometimes longer depending on the duration of the trial.
Jurors must not disclose how the jury reached its verdict or what happened during deliberations even after the trail is over. They must not reveal the identity of other jurors.
If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers.