Jurors are an essential part of the administration of justice in our country. The courts could not function without their co-operation. Unlike voting which is a privilege of citizenship, jury service is a civic duty and an obligation.
Your jury summons requests you to attend for jury service on the date and at the time indicated. Read the summons carefully paying particular attention to the list of persons ineligible, disqualified or excusable as of right. If you wish to make an application to be excused, this is at the discretion of the County Registrar and you should state your reasons as fully as possible on Form J2. You should enclose any certificates or documents in support of your application.
Every citizen aged 18 years or upwards whose name is on the Register of Dail electors can be called for jury service unless ineligible, disqualified or excusable as of right.
The following offences are punishable by fines:
(i) Failing to attend for jury service without reasonable excuse, or not being available when called upon to serve as a juror or being unfit for service by reason of drink and drugs.
(ii) Making or causing to be made on your behalf false representations.
(iii) Serving on a jury knowing you are ineligible or disqualified.
(iv) Giving false or misleading answers to the presiding judge regarding your qualification for jury service.
(v) Making or causing to be made on behalf of a person summoned as a juror any false representation to enable him or her to evade jury service.
The full text of these offences is set down in Part V of the Juries Act, 1976 as amended by Part 6 Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2008.
There is no payment for jury service. Travelling expenses are not allowed. If you are actually serving as a juror, lunch will be provided on the day or days that the trial is at hearing.
If you are self-employed and your attendance at jury service may mean you cannot earn a living, you may qualify for excusal from jury service, at the discretion of the County Registrar. If you are in employment, section 29 of the Juries Act, 1976 places a duty on your employer to allow you attend for jury service. The law also states that the time spent on jury service is to be treated as if the employee were actually employed. In other words, if you are in employment and are attending for jury service, you are entitled to be paid while you are away from work
All those summonsed for jury service must attend in court on the first day the panel is formed. In order to select a panel of twelve jurors for a particular case, names are drawn out of a ballot box. If your name is called, go to the jury box. Even though you are called for jury service, you may not actually serve. Usually more people than necessary are called. You must return to court every day, whether or not you are sworn onto a jury, unless otherwise directed by the court. You do not become a juror until you have been called into the jury box, and until you have either sworn or affirmed that you will try the issues and return a true verdict, according to the evidence.
An accused person may ‘challenge’ up to seven prospective jurors, without giving any reason. The prosecution may also ‘challenge’ seven prospective jurors. If your presence on the jury is successfully challenged, you will be required to step down.
(a) decide the facts of the case only;
(b) take directions relating to law from the trial judge, whether or not they agree with him/her;
(c) remain impartial and independent;
(d) remain uninfluenced by any person. It is an offence for any person who is not a member of the jury to attempt to influence a juror in any way. If any person speaks to a juror about the case, the juror should inform the court or a member of the Gardai;
(e) keep statements made in the jury room confidential. Jurors should not discuss the case with any person other than members of the jury. It is contempt of court punishable by fine and or imprisonment to repeat any statements made in the jury room.
The jury must decide whether or not the prosecution has proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty of the crime(s) with which he/she has been charged. ‘Beyond reasonable doubt’ means that if there are two reasons given in the case and both are possible explanations for what happened, taken together with the evidence presented, the jury should give the accused the benefit of the doubt.
Sunday Independent, Sunday 6th March 2011 Emer O’Kelly Article
“New laws were introduced last year to compel those called for jury service to turn up on the designated day. Prior to the legislation, jurors who were not formally excused but who failed to turn up could be summarily fined (£50). But the penalty was seldom imposed. Now the State has the power to prosecute with a fine of up to €500 being the penalty to be imposed upon conviction. And Judge Reynolds recommended that the 215 “no-shows” in Ennis on Tuesday should be prosecuted by the State. She told Counsel for the State, Stephen Coughlan, that the number of “no-shows” was “unprecedented in Clare”. And Mr
Coughlan agreed with the judge that the people involved were showing disrespect to the court.”
“But Judge Reynolds was able to empanel only 10 potential jurors because her choice was so limited: the other 25 who had presented themselves were either excused on judicial grounds, or challenged on behalf of the prosecution. That’s why the courts need a broadly based and numerous panel from which to choose. In addition, it seems in this case, the 35 possible jurors present were not representative of the accused’s peers. Counsel for the State and defending counsel were agreed on that. And that particular agreement is at the core of the change in legislation which allows for heavy penalties for people who fail to turn up after being called for jury service”.
“So juries have over the years been anything but representative of the broad sweep of society: people’s liberty was on trial, but they were not always being judged by a panel of their peers, representative of society at large and at random.
And that is a very serious judicial lack. No wonder Judge Reynolds took the bit between her teeth at Ennis Circuit Court and utilised her new powers to recommend to the court officials that the 215 people called for jury service who had failed to show up should be prosecuted. It is the first time such a recommendation has been made, and it followed fairly fast on the heels of the rules being changed to allow the State to pursue the defectors.”