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Topic of the Day - The Call of Jury Duty

Monday, 29 March 2010

Law Reform Consultation Paper on Jury Service


Main points and recommendations of the Law Reform Commission:

Concerns about the representative nature of juries, and about juror behaviour.


The Consultation Paper talks account of submissions received by the Commission leading up to the formulation of the Third Programme of Law Reform, and other concerns expressed publicly (including by the Director of Public Prosecutions), that the existing processes for jury selection do not result in the selection of juries that are representative of the community.

For example:


. the Juries Act 1976 currently allows a wide group of professional persons and public servants to be excused as of right from jury service.
. the current jury panels are limited to Irish citizens and exclude long term residents, including EU citizens (by contrast, Irish citizens resident in England are eligible for jury service there)

Other concerns include:
. the extent to which the availability of wireless technology might allow jurors in the jury room to search online for information about an accused rather than limit their decision to the evidence presented
. whether the public availability of jury panel lists runs the risk that jury members are open to intimidation or jury tampering.

Specific recommendations
The main provisional recommendations in the Consultation Paper are:
. the existing blanket excusal from jury service of many professionals and public servants should be replaced by an individualised excusal "for good cause"
. jury panels should be based on the electoral registers for local and European elections, allowing not only Irish citizen but also EU citizens and long-term residents (of 5 years) to be selected for jury service
. jurors should be allowed deferral of service for up to 12 months
. no person should be prohibited from jury service on the basis of physical disability alone; that capacity be recognised as the only appropriate requirement for jury service; and that reasonable accommodation be put in place for hearing-and-visually impaired jurors to assist them in undertaking the duties of a juror
. The recommendation to remove the 'blanket' exemption that currently operates to excuse many middle-class people from serving on jury panels is outlined in the latest consultation paper from the Law Reform Commission (LRC).

. persons convicted of serious criminal offences should continue to be disqualified for jury service, and this should be extended to those convicted of similar offences outside the State
. the Commission invites submissions as to whether persons who are awaiting trial on criminal charges should continue to be eligible for jury service
. the Commission questions whether the number of objections to jurors without the need to give any reason for both the prosecution and the defence should be reduced from the existing seven each
. the Commission invites submissions as to whether some expenses should be paid to jurors, especially self-employed jurors, to cover their direct costs
. the Courts Service should provide to jurors information explaining why jurors should not carry out independent investigations or internet searches about a case
. the Commission invites submissions as to whether the right to inspect the jury panel should be amended.

For more information on this you can go to: www.lawreform.ie

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