Serving on a jury is an opportunity for members of the public to learn about the judicial system and to be involved in the administration of justice. Any person who is enrolled to vote in Western Australia is liable to serve as a juror, however some persons can be excused from jury service or are ineligible. Jury service in Western Australia is governed by the Juries Act 1957.
What is jury service?
If you are called up for jury service, you are being asked to give your time and effort for the period you have been summonsed. Your employer will be required to co-operate by excusing you from work for the period you are serving. You will be remunerated for your service and if there is a gap between the remuneration you receive and what you would normally have earned during the same period, your employer will be required to pay you the difference so that you are not disadvantaged by your jury service.
Serving on a jury
If you are called up for jury service you will receive a summons several weeks before the date the trial is listed. You will be required to attend court on a date when jurors will be selected. If you are selected you will be required to hear evidence in a civil or criminal trial. The majority of trials are completed in under five days. However some trials run for longer. Court usually sits between 10am and 4.30pm with lunch and other breaks being determined by the judge. If you are selected for jury service, you need to be prepared for the possibility of a long trial. If this is going to cause problems for you, you may need to consider deferring your jury service. This should be done before the date you have been summonsed to appear.
Can I get out of jury service?
If you need to defer your jury service to a more convenient time, you can do so for a period of up to six months. A deferral may be granted on the basis of pressing commitments, health issues, business needs or because hardship would be caused to your family or the community if you attended jury service. You can apply for a deferral by filling in the statutory declaration on the back of your summons.
Section 5 of the Juries Act sets out the circumstances in which a person is ineligible for jury service. These include where a person is older than 75 and where a person has been sentenced to imprisonment for a period of more than two years. Judges, lawyers, police officers and some other public officials are also ineligible for jury service.
Section 34G sets out the grounds on which a person may apply to be excused from jury service. These include not living in the relevant district, not understanding English and being unable to serve because of a disability. A person can be excused from jury service for a specified period or permanently. A judge may also excuse a person at his or her own initiative.
A person who has performed jury service is the last five years will also be excused.
Offences and penalties
Section 55 of the Juries Act creates a number of criminal offences relating to jury service. These include failing to obey a summons, failing to obey a direction and impersonating a juror. All these offences are punishable by fines of up to $5,000.
Section 56 creates a number of offences relating to conduct by the employer of a juror, which are punishable by fines of up to $10,000 (or $50,000 for a body corporate). If an employer treats a person who is performing jury service disfavourably, such as by terminating their employment or reducing their salary, it is committing an offence.
Jurors must not disclose statements made, opinions expressed, arguments advanced or votes cast in the course of the jury’s deliberation. It is also an offence for a person to solicit or obtain information relation to a jury’s deliberations or to publish such information. Doing any of these things can attract a fine of up to $5,000.
It is contempt of court for a person to take or publish pictures of anyone attending court for jury service.
If you require legal advice in any legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers.