What is a jury?
All cases of serious criminal offences are tried by a jury.
-A jury is a panel of 12 people who listen to the evidence presented in a court case and then give a verdict on the guilt or innocence of the person or persons on trial.
-The members of the jury are impartial, they don't know anyone in the trial and don't care about the result
-Their verdict is based solely on the evidence they have heard.
There are also a few civil (i.e. non-criminal) cases in which juries are involved, such as inquests and libel trials.
-In civil cases the jury is usually made up of eight people.
Who can serve on a jury?
Everyone in the United Kingdom who is on the electoral roll can be summoned for jury service if they are aged between 18 and 70 and have lived in the UK for a period of at least five years since they were 13 years old.
Some people, however, are ineligible for jury service. This might be because of their work (e.g. judges and priests), or because they are mentally ill. Some people are disqualified from jury service because they have committed a crime themselves and been imprisoned or put on probation.
It is illegal to serve on a jury if you know you are ineligible or disqualified, and anyone who does can be fined heavily.
Some people also have the right to be excused from jury service. This category includes:
-Those over 65
-Members of the UK or European Parliament
-Members of the armed forces
-Those who have served on a jury in the previous two years
What does jury service involve?
If called upon for jury service, you are usually expected to serve for ten working days, although you can be dismissed earlier. If you are a member of the jury in a long trial, however, you must attend every day of the court hearings until the trial has ended even if the trial goes on for months. Failure to attend jury service is an offence and can be punished.
On arrival at the court, people summoned for jury service are sent to the jury assembly room. When jurors are sworn in, they promise to listen to all the evidence and to consider it fairly in reaching their verdict.
The trial begins with the prosecution counsel presenting the case against the defendant, including evidence that supports the case that the defendant is guilty.
Then the defense counsel presents the case for the defendant, presenting evidence that supports the case that the defendant is innocent.
When these cases have been presented, the judge sums up the evidence for and against the defendant, highlighting the main points that the jury needs to consider. The judge will also explain to the jury the exact meaning of any specific points of law that are important in the case.
After the judge's summing-up the jury goes to the jury room. The jury must first decide...