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Jury Duty In Melbourne

In Victoria, most criminal and some civil trials are decided by jury. If a person is summonsed to come to court for jury service in Melbourne or elsewhere in Victoria, you must try to attend. If you are unable to attend court because of an illness or because of carer’s responsibilities, you must apply for a deferral or to be excused from jury duty, using the form on the back of the summons. Jury duty in Melbourne and the rest of Victoria is governed by the Juries Act 2000.

Composition of juries

Civil trials in Victoria are decided by a jury of six members, while criminal trials have a jury of 12. In some cases, courts may order the empanelment of additional jurors – in civil trials there may be up to two extra jurors and in criminal trials there may be up to three extras.

All adult citizens who are enrolled to vote are qualified to serve on a jury. However, persons are disqualified from jury service in Melbourne or elsewhere in Victoria if they have been sentenced to imprisonment for certain criminal offences. 

A person is ineligible for jury duty if they have worked in certain occupations or served in certain public official roles.

Being excused from jury duty in Melbourne

Under section 8 of the Juries Act, a person can request to be excused from jury duty in Melbourne for the whole or part of a jury period for a reason, including:

  • incapacity;
  • illness;
  • the distance the person would have to travel to court;
  • substantial hardship that jury service would cause them;
  • carer responsibilities.

A person may apply to be permanently excused from jury duty in Melbourne or elsewhere in Victoria under Section 9 of the Act.

Empanelment of juries

When a panel of jurors is required by the court, enough potential jurors must be selected from the jury pool. They must then be told the type of action or charge that is to be tried, the names of the parties, the names of the main witnesses and the expected duration of the trial.

Any person who will not be able to consider the matter impartially must be excused from jury service. The most common reason for this is that they know someone who is involved. A person who will be unable to serve on a jury for any reason must also be excused.

Civil trials

In civil trials, each party may challenge two members of the jury panel without a reason as well as challenging as many jurors as they choose for a reason.

Criminal trials

In criminal trials, each party may challenge three jury panel members without a reason if only one defendant is being tried and two panel members if two or more co-accuseds are being tried.

Both defence and prosecution in a criminal trial may challenge as many potential jurors as they like for a reason.

Remuneration for jury duty in Melbourne

Jurors are entitled to payment for their jury service if they have attended court after being summonsed for jury service whether or not they actually served on a jury.

If a juror misses paid work because of attending court for jury service, their employer must pay them the difference between the amount they received as payment for jury service and the amount they would have been paid for working during the period of their jury service.

Offences relating to jury duty

The Juries Act contains a number of criminal offences. These include providing false or misleading information so as to avoid jury service (Section 70), failing to attend court when summonsed for jury service without a reasonable excuse and publishing the contents of the deliberations of a jury.

After trial

After a person has completed their jury duty in Melbourne they are paid and receive a certificate of exemption from jury duty for a period of time. How long they are excused for that depends on the length of the trial.

Jurors must not disclose to other people how the jury reached its verdict or what was said during the jury’s deliberations even after the trial is over. A juror must not reveal the identity of the other members of the jury.

If you require legal advice or representation in relation to jury duty in Melbourne or in any legal matter please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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