Key points
  • Section 1 of the Juries Act 1974 (as amended by the Criminal Justice Act 1988) states that 'every person shall be qualified to serve as a juror in the Crown Court, the High Court and county courts and be liable accordingly to attend for jury service when summoned under this Act, if:
    1. he is for the time being registered as a parliamentary or local government elector and is not less than eighteen nor more than sixty-five years of age; and
    2. he has been ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for any period of at least five years since attaining the age of thirteen,
but not if he is for the time being ineligible or disqualified for jury service'.
  • This means, in effect, that every person between the age of 18 and 65, who is on the electoral roll (and not otherwise ineligible or disqualified), may be summoned to attend as a juror in court proceedings. Furthermore, he (or she) must attend in court for as many days as may be directed in the summons.
Persons excused, ineligible or disqualified from/for jury service
  • The following persons may be excused from jury service:
    1. any person who can satisfy the court that he (or she) has served on a jury at any time during the preceding period of two years;
    2. any person who, on account of physical disability or insufficient understanding of English, is considered unlikely to act effectively as a juror; and
    3. any person who can satisfy the court that there is good reason why he (or she) should be excused from attending.
  • There are also persons who are excusable as of right. These are:
    1. peers and peeresses, members of the House of Commons, officers of the House of Lords, and officers of the House of Commons;
    2. full-time serving members of any of Her Majesty's naval, military or air forces (including any Voluntary Aid Detachment serving with the Royal Navy); and
    3. medical practitioners, dentists, nurses, midwives, veterinary surgeons and veterinary practitioners, and pharmaceutical chemists, if they are actually practising their respective professions and are registered, enrolled or certified under the enactment relating to those professions.
  • Persons ineligible for jury service include:
    1. barristers or solicitors, whether or not in actual practice as such; solicitors' articled clerks, barristers' clerks and their assistants, legal executives in the employment of solicitors, and others (including judges and justices of the peace) employed by the judiciary or concerned with the administration of justice;
    2. the clergy (including avowed members of any religion order); and
    3. any person who suffers or has suffered from mental illness, subnormality, severe subnormality or a psychopathic disorder.
  • Also disqualified from jury service is any person who has, at any time, been sentenced in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, to custody for life or to a term of imprisonment or youth custody for five years or more; or who, at any time in the last 10 years, has served any part of a sentence of imprisonment or detention (being a sentence for a term of three months or more), or been detained in a youth custody centre.
Offences and penalties
  • Any person who fails to comply with a summons for jury service, or who is unfit for service by reason of drink or drugs, shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £1,000, unless, in the case of a failure to comply, he (or she) can show some reasonable cause for that failure. A person who makes a false representation, or gives false information, with the intention of evading jury service, is liable on summary conviction to a fine of up to £5,000. A person who serves on a jury when disqualified is liable to a fine of up to £1,000.
Payment for jury service
  • A person who serves as a juror is entitled to receive payments for travelling and subsistence; and an allowance for loss of earnings or social security benefit (ibid. section 19).
At present (2003), the following allowances are payable:
    1. full bus and tube fares; second class rail fares; and taxi fares (if no public service transport is reasonably available);
    2. if a private motor car is used, a mileage allowance of a maximum 25.3p per mile (each way), although this may increase to 38.4p per mile if use of a private car results in a substantial saving in time;
    3. parking fees necessarily incurred by a juror who travels in his (or her) own car (unless it would have been cheaper for him/her to have used public transport);

If fellow jurors are carried as passengers in the same car, a supplement of 2p per mile is payable in respect of the first passenger and 1p per mile for each additional passenger.
    1. if a juror travels by private motorcycle, he is entitled to a mileage allowance of 25.3p per mile (regardless of engine capacity) or 26.4p per mile if using a motorcycle saves time;
    1. a subsistence allowance to meet the extra expenses of meals and other incidental expenses incurred while attending court – the amount of which will depend on the length of time for which a juror is necessarily away from his or her home or place of business, as follows:
not exceeding 5 hours     £2.22
between 5 and 10 hours  £4.51
more than 10 hours      £9.86
    1. a loss of earnings or benefits allowance of £26.32 a day if a juror loses earnings, or social security benefits or has other expenses during a part of a day that is up to and including four hours in the first 10 days of jury service, or £52.63 a day during a part of a day that is up to and including four hours on the 11th and subsequent days of jury service;
    1. a loss of earnings or benefits allowance of £52.63 a day if a juror loses earnings, social security benefits or has other expenses during a part of a day that is more than four hours in the first 10 days of jury service, or £105.28 a day during a part of a day that is more than four hours on the 11th and subsequent days of jury service.

A juror claiming a loss of earnings or benefits allowance must produce a certificate completed and signed by his or her employer or local benefit office confirming the loss of earnings or benefits.
  • An allowance is also payable in respect of overnight accommodation – £72.58 a day, if the accommodation is within a five-mile radius of Charing Cross in London; and £66.91 a day, if elsewhere.
National Insurance contributions
  • An employee, whose earnings during jury service fall below the 'lower earnings limit' for the payment of National Insurance contributions, will be entitled to NI contribution credits for each week or part-week in which that situation arises – as if his (or her) earnings were equal to that lower limit. The allowances described above do not count as 'earnings' for this purpose. To apply for those NI credits, the juror must write to his local social security or benefit office before 1 January of the year immediately following the end of the tax year in which the jury service occurred. These credits are not available to married women and widows who have elected to pay reduced NI contributions.
Duties of employer
  • An employer is under no legal obligation to continue to pay an employee his (or her) normal wages or salary during any absence from work on jury service. But it would be unwise of an employer to dismiss an employee who is necessarily absent from work for that reason – given that the employee is under a legal obligation to comply with a jury summons and that the reason for his absence from work could not normally be said to amount to 'some other substantial reason of a kind such as to justify the dismissal of an employee holding the position which that employee held' (section 98(1)(b) of the Employment Rights Act 1996).
  • Even if the employee is (or was) a key worker, the employer would need to satisfy an employment tribunal that he had acted reasonably in treating the employee's absence on jury service as a reason for dismissing him (or her). The tribunal might well need answers to the following questions: How long was the employee likely to be absent from work? Could not the employer have found a suitable replacement to cover for the employee during his absence? Did the employer write to the court asking for the employee to be excused from jury service? And so on.