About three months ago I received a letter announcing that I had “won” a “lottery”. Sadly, I hadn’t won the Euromillions triple rollover jackpot, or indeed some money courtesy of a Nigerian prince. I had in fact won a place on jury service.
The letter, printed on stress-free pink paper demanded a response within seven days – and so I responded. Days before my service was due to start I received another letter, warning that my service would possibly last up to a month.
The day arrived, and I and around 40 other people turned up. We had a health and safety talk, and watched a video. I would have liked to have learned how jury service originated in the Middle Ages, how we were following in a long line of honourable jurors, but Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service had other ideas. In due course we were called up into a court room, and we watched a tall, austere looking man as he shuffled some cards. These cards constituted another lottery. In front of the dock and it’s inhabitants it was shown that 12 jurors were chosen at random. Some people asked to be excused, and the judge granted their request. Others stayed…
The next day we arrived at the appointed hour, and learned that the start of the hearing was being delayed for legal discussions. We heard about those delays frequently over the next 3 weeks. Eventually we were called in, and offered the choice of swearing or affirming that we would do our duty.
I am not allowed to tell you what happened next. Well, actually I probably could if I knew who you were and trusted you – in other words exercised common sense – but I don’t. So I won’t. We heard frequent persuasions over the next few weeks for people to not talk about the court case. And even if the Contempt of Court Act wasn’t in place, I’d probably be inclined to not talk too much about it anyway. We heard personal details that in other contexts would be nobody’s business, and references to other investigations that in ideal circumstances we should never have heard about. So…what can I say?
The judge was a very nice bloke, who clearly wanted to keep everything stress free so that people wouldn’t lose interest. And then there were the barristers. The Crown’s barrister was a fresh faced “lad” who looked as if he had only just qualified. And the defence barristers looked as old as time, and had wigs and gowns to match. General consensus was that wigs were in fact badges of honour, and the more stained and battle weary the wig, the more highly honoured the wearer.
We heard lots of argument, and drank lots of tea (and can I just mention that if you are ever called, you really should take some reading material in for out of court waits :p ). And then it was time to decide. I can’t tell you what happened in the jury room either, but what I can say is that I am proud of my fellow citizens for what they decided. And once we were back in the court room, verdicts were announced…