Jury Duty – My Public Service Experience
This week has been a bit of a test for me. I had been on summoned to undertake Jury Service. Here is my run down of the weeks trials and tribulations (excuse the pun).
I had to be in Oxford for 9.00am so a little bit of role reversal is was having to happen in our house. Tim had to do the school run and go into work late so I could get into Oxford on time. I arrived at the park and ride and discovered I had left my phone at home which I never ever ever do. All day I was twitching with no Facebook, no Twitter and no internet. I think I have discovered that I am actually addicted to my Tech!
On arrival at the court I had to passed through the security check and was ushered into a lift to level 2. The room was small and already hot and stuffy. It was very full. I found a seat and sat down. It was a situation I hadn’t been in for a long time, no one was making eye contact let alone conversation. I think this was partially down to not knowing what what in store for us.
In my head, I was prepared for a day of sitting around, being told to go home at 2pm and then probably same for day 2 and then that would be it my public duty would be done. NOT BLOODY LIKELY.
After a to check everyone was present we were told that there were 3 trials due to start. As there were 45 of us it was stated that there was no escaping today and we were all to be allocated to trials.
We watched very boring dvd about the courtroom and what we had to do.
We were told that the trial I was allocated to was to start at 11.30am. It started with 30 minute updates to tell us there were delays. Luckily, there were a few like minded individual in our group that just (like me) found it amusing take the mick and have a bit if banter with they Ushers and later in the day we started a sweepstake as to what time the Usher would appear next.
One trial had already collapsed and those Jurors were sent home by 12pm and another Jury had been sworn in. So we waited.
For the majority of that day we just sat around. I tried to read a paperback which I bought from the local shop but just couldn’t get into. The idea was that having a book would occupy my mind whilst sat waiting to be allocated a trial and sworn in and make the time go quicker. I have now realised that my concentration span is limited to 20 minute intervals. Is this because I am ageing or because there are do many social media or tech options (as they are referred to in our house) and I am used to flicking between them all?
After sitting, more sitting and yep even more sitting I decided to turn on the tv watched a bit of a program called Doctors, never seen it before so didn’t have a clue of who was who or even the plot. Then we channel hopped to a food channel and watched some rather odd american cooking program where some woman was cooking Chunky Chicken Chowder. At 3.10 the usher arrived back and told us that our case had collapsed and we could go home. We would have to phone up the Jury telephone line after 3.30pm and see if we were required the following day.
Arrived home and called the line. I had to listen to a whole string of numbers to see if my number was required. The list seemed endless and eventually my number was called which would mean that I had to head back into Oxford the next day.
Here we go again. Trekked into Oxford and into the court. Passed through security and back into the waiting room. Today, there were two trials to start so we were allocated back onto new trials. The Usher came in to ask how we would like to swear, bible, affirm or another religious book. I opted for the bible and resumed my waiting pose. Just before lunch we were taken down to a court room to be selected from again. There were fourteen of us which had to be reduced to twelve. The court usher shuffled some cards and called out names, mine was the first so I walked towards the benches and sat as directed whilst the other eleven were selected in the same way. The two remaining were escorted back to the Juror room to wait until they were released at 2pm.
We each got sworn in in turn giving the Defendant time to reject us if they wanted to. Whole jury were sworn in with no issues. Then we were told what the case was concerning and at the time I was not allowed to tell anyone, no family, no friends and we were told that we could only discuss the case with each other however, now the process is over and we had made a decision it is ok to talk about it.
I was quite concerned that there was no preparation to go through on what to expect. However, the Prosecution lawyer gave a run down of the case, what the charge was and who were involved The Prosecution was very dramatic with raised eye brows. peering over his glasses and other gestures that would be better placed on a BBC drama production. Maybe its just how they are?
After a passing the afternoon by listening to the victims story and then his cross examination and then the same of the supposed attacker. I can’t believe that the actual incident happened in 2012! The Judge then sent us home and told us to return again for 10am the next day for summing up speeches from either side and then himself.
Managed to have time to drop my son to school before I made my way into Oxford.
This morning we heard the speeches from both sides and then a summary from the Judge.
The Judge was very clear that the Defendant doesn’t have to prove himself not guilty but the prosecution must provide evidence enough to prove that the act occurred as beyond all reasonable doubt.
So we got sent off to the Jury room to decide on the fate of the Defendant. What an enormous task we had to undertake. What if we make the wrong decision? In all truthfulness we will never know.
After a fairly short period we came to a unanimous decision and called the Usher back to deliver our verdict.
We were called back into the Courtroom and our elected foreman answered the questions as we gave our verdict and then sent home for the day. The Judge was very nice and thanked us all for our time and decision.
4.10pm I called the Jury number to see if I was required again. There was another list of numbers and mine was the penultimate number so back in I needed to go the next day.
Arrived in the Jury room for 9.30 and again today there were more trials and I had been allocated on a trial to start at 10am.
We chose how we wanted to be sworn in and ushered down to the court. Again we went through the process of selection and this time their were two people that were not required and we were sworn in.
During the afternoon we heard from the Prosecution and again he was dramatic, lots of pauses, raised eyebrows and gesturing. We also heard from the victim and a witness. That took all afternoon we left at about 4.40pm to return to court for 10am the following morning.
Arrived at the court quite early as the traffic was kind and no delays encountered.
Today I came prepared with jacket and scarf as the Courtroom was freezing the previous afternoon. On arrival to our courtroom we were advised that the case would probably take us into the next week bearing in mind it was Friday and usually Judges do not like to send a Jury out to deliberate on a Friday afternoon as it puts more pressure on them to come to a decision.
We started with a few more speeches, statements and some pictures from the Prosecution followed by the evidence from the defendant, cross examination of the Defendant and then statements from one witness and the cross examination of them. This summed up all the evidence and next we were to have the closing speeches and Judges summary. We had a quick break for a coffee and then straight back in.
Speeches and Judges summary completed with the Judge guiding us on the points to consider. This Judge gave us a crib sheet with pointers and summaries to consider.
At 1.00pm we were escorted to a deliberation room. You are not allowed to leave the deliberation room until a verdict has been agree unanimously.
I was really struggling with this case and deciding on my verdict. We did a straw pole to see what people were thinking and it was a 60/40 split towards a not guilty verdict.
I think that my issues were actually moral and not factual. My worry was that with the incident that had occurred I couldn’t understand how the incident had escalated to the actual charge and also if the person was found not guilty could they easily do this again. As, I was told that is speculation and not based on any evidence. It took until 4.40pm to arrive at a decision.
We went back into court and delivered our verdict. As we entered the courtroom the mother, father, girlfriend and friends were all in tears some actually sobbing. Our verdict was given and there were cheers from them and many more tears of relief I would guess.
At the end of this case as we were released we were all told that we were completed and we were no longer required to attend the court for the second week.
In summary, it has been an interesting week. I met some really lovely people. There were frustrating times and enjoyable times. We took it very seriously and had a giggle when we could. To be honest some of the CCTV evidence should really be on You’ve been framed and to hear the Judge profusely swear in words you can see him struggle to say amused me immensely.
I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed the experience because I have. I am naturally inquisitive some would say nosy and seemed to be writing my own questions that if I were allowed I would have asked.
To be honest the level of prosecuting evidence for both cases was appalling. I think the only reason for the cases to come to a Crown Court was because the Defendants were both pleading not guilty. I cannot change the processes but I would say if you are the Prosecution surely you should make sure your evidence is water tight. Find everything and anything to back up your evidence simple isn’t it?
I wonder how much money these two cases actually cost to take to court?
If you are called for Jury service my advice would be make sure you have iPad, kindle, book etc to amuse yourself whilst waiting around. Remember when you turn up you are all in the same boat and to sit and not build any rapport with your fellow Jurors will make the week even longer. Go with an open mind and listen to the Judge.
Note: when Judges stand you too are supposed to stand. This was told to us by another Jury who hadn’t realised that this was the protocol and therefore were reprimanded for not standing – whoops.