Describe both the qualifications required for jurors and the procedure for selecting a jury.

The Juries Act 1974 as amended currently sets out the qualifications for jury service.

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The work of the Morris Committee in 1972 resulted in a move away from the property qualification as an entitlement to sit on a jury to a more representative system of eligibility.  This eligibility was now to be based upon citizenship of the United Kingdom. 

The requirement that eligible persons needed to own property before they could be considered for jury service at all was open to a variety of criticism.  Not least was the criticism that eligibility was based upon a system that was not not representative, but elitist in nature and took no account of merit or ability.  It was not surprising therefore that the Morris Committee wanted to move towards a system that more appropriately reflected the needs of society generally. More recently the Criminal Justice Act 2003 did away with most of the categories of ineligibility including those applying to members of the legal profession.


The S1 of the Juries Act 1974 as amended currently sets out the qualifications for jury service.  These are as follows:

There are age limits: - A person must be aged between 18 and 70.  The minimum age is the same as when someone is legally recognised as being an adult.  This may be a good thing bearing in mind the nature of some difficult cases that juries might be asked to determine.  It would be unfair and unreasonable to expect a young person to be able to cope with some of the cases.  In addition there is the issue of whether young persons would have enough experience of life to be able to make a real and meaning contribution to the work of the bench.  It is also consistent with the age when someone is entitled to vote. The maximum age of 70 is when most people will feel entitled to retire and by this time may feel that they have done enough in terms of their own personal contribution and duty.

A person must be registered as a parliamentary or local government elector.  In other words someone who is entitled to vote in parliamentary elections or in local elections.  Their  name must appear on the electoral roll.  This system of registration is based upon age, occupancy and residency.  The date for qualification is the 15th October when appropriate electoral forms must be completed and returned to the local authority for the area.  The property qualification no longer applies.  Persons are selected at random from the electoral roll.

There is a residency qualification and this is consistent with the view that rights and obligations should flow from citizenship as opposed to ownership or some other basis.  The person must have lived in the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man for at least 5 years, since their 13th birthday.

Despite qualification there are a number of persons who cannot sit or need not sit as a juror and these include:

There are some restrictions to serving as a juror.  One of these is that the person must not be a mentally disordered person.  This is fully defined in the Criminal Justice Act 2003 but includes persons who are incapable of administering their property and affairs, persons resident in a hospital or institution as a result of their mental illness or to whom a guardian has been appointed under the Mental Health Acts.

A potential juror is not qualified to act if they are disqualified or excused from jury service (see below).


The following are disqualified from jury service:

Persons on bail are not permitted to act as jurors.

Persons who at any time have been imprisoned for life or have a sentence of 5 years or more are disqualified.

In addition persons are disqualified for ten years if they have a sentence of less than five years or suspended sentences, or received a community rehabilitation order, received a community punishment order or received a drug treatment testing or a drug abstinence order.

Excusal and deferral


The following are excused from jury service:


Persons who have served or responded to a call to serve on a jury in the past two years.


A person can apply to be excused from jury service if they are serving in the armed forces. Such service is not automatic and any such application must be supported by the person's commanding officer by certifying that the person is needed on military service if that is the case.


There are likely to be unforeseen situations when it may be considered unreasonable to expect an individual to carry out jury service. In the circumstances an individual can be excused or have their requirement to carry out jury service deferred if there is 'good reason'. Application for such excusal or deferral should be made the Jury Central Summing Bureau. Examples might include illness,pre-booked holidays, practical problems over childcare and work commitments.


Lack of capacity would be another reason a juror would be discharged from serving, as he may not have sufficient understanding of the English language.  Other disabilities such as blindness or deafness may also give rise to persons being discharged from serving as a juror by the trial judge.


Mention has already been made of the qualification element of being registered on the electoral register but there are some additional selection procedures to decide which members of the public are chosen to sit on the jury.


Once individuals have been picked at random from the electoral register for a court area, a summons is sent out using a computer system. Persons so selected must attend and there are penalties for non-attendance. Assuming that an individual does attend 15 are chosen at random from the jury pool or panel and those 15 go into the court room. The clerk then selects 12 at random from those assembled in the court.


Since the process is random in nature there is no requirement for multicultural or multiracial juries to be assembled (R v Smith 2003)). Similarly judges cannot bring jurors in from outside the catchment area so as to avoid problems such as jury 'knobbling' (R v Ford (1989), R v Tarrant (1998).


There are a series of checks in place as part of the selection process to minimise the risk of something going wrong with the section process and these are known as challenges. Both the prosecution and the defence can challenge the array if they wish to question the way in which the jury was selected.


A challenge for cause (i.e. good reason) by either the prosecution or defence can be also be made if it is suspected that a juror has a connection with the case or there is an issue about capacity. In the event of such a challenge the issue will be dealt with by the trial judge in a preliminary hearing before the trial begins.


If there is some concern about an individual then the prosecution can ask that the juror in question is asked to stand by the prosecution. This might apply for example if it is obvious that a juror is unsuitable and the defence agree but the judge also has some discretionary powers to remove a juror. Any concerns that such a power on the part of the prosecution could lead to an imbalance has been alleviated by the Attorney General's Practice note issued in 1988 which effectively provides that the right be used sparingly and only in exceptional cases


There is also scope for routine police checks and for a wider background check in some national security or terrorist cases. This vetting is likely to be accepted as exceptional in cases of national security and or is terrorist related.



(Word count 1273)


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As always the essay lends itself to expansion and further research using the additional resources and links provided.

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