All South Australians who appear on the Electoral Roll can be required to perform jury service. There are some exceptions to the requirement to attend for jury service, and these exceptions are governed by the Juries Act. For example, if you are over the age of 70 years, you can choose to be excused from performing jury service.
Potential juror selection is chosen randomly from the Electoral Roll and once the specific names are selected, the details are checked to determine the appropriateness for the jury service. If, for example, you reside a long distance from the courthouse where the criminal trials will be heard, you may be sent a letter confirming if you wish to be considered for jury service, but you have a right to refuse.
Prospective jurors are chosen monthly and form what is called a ‘jury pool’. They are ‘summonsed’ to attend at the courthouse on a specific date and undergo some orientation concerning their role as jurors. They must remain available for the entire month and are required to check their phone daily to see if they are required for jury service on any particular day during the month.
"... the notorious Snowtown trial required the jury to participate in the murder trial for approximately a year."
For more complex criminal trials, jurors may be required to participate in jury service for longer than a month. For example, the notorious Snowtown trial required the jury to participate in the murder trial for approximately a year.
In South Australia you remain eligible for jury selection even if you have previously served. If you’ve been selected for jury service, you may apply to be excused if you’ve participated in jury service during the previous three years.
Apart from the age of the prospective juror, their distance from the courthouse or their prior service, there are some other grounds that can be relied upon to be excused from jury service including:
- The juror works for a business/partnership, and other members of the business/partnership have been summonsed for jury service at the same time (and this could have an adverse impact on the business);
- Poor health;
- Special urgency or importance (for example, needing to leave the country for a family member’s funeral, being the full-time carer of someone with a disability, the potential juror is late in her pregnancy, etc);
- A ‘conscientious objection’ (for example, religious grounds).
Any person selected for jury service can apply to be excused, but good reasons need to exist before the application to be excused may be granted.
Other members of society may be ineligible or disqualified from jury service include:
- A person with a mental incapacity;
- A person with an inability to understand the English language;
- Members of certain occupations including parliamentarians, solicitors, police officers and people employed within the court system;
- People who have been imprisoned for a term exceeding two years or people who during the last five years were convicted of an offence punishable by imprisonment;
- People subject to good behaviour bonds; etc.
"It is a legal requirement that employers allow their employees to take leave when summonsed to attend for jury service."
It is a legal requirement that employers allow their employees to take leave when summonsed to attend for jury service, but that does not mean employers are obliged to provide paid leave. Jurors are entitled to receive a small sum of compensation for their attendance (around $20 per day) plus they can claim for financial loss or expenditure in excess of $130 per day. This is compensation for lost wages, child care expenses, and other expenses incurred as a result of the requirement to attend for jury service.
Being selected for jury service may appear scary, intimidating, confusing and even frustrating. It can interfere with your employment and other responsibilities and many people try and find any reason to be excused from service. But juries are an exceptionally important and fundamental part of our justice system and jurors should feel proud that they have made an important contribution to law and order in South Australia.
Today’s article is written by Associate Michael Irvine. Michael now practices in Civil Litigation and Employment Law. He has previous experience in the field of criminal law. If you have any queries or require assistance in criminal law, please feel free to get in touch directly with one of our lawyers practicing in that field; Toni Monteleone or Nes Alexandropoulos.