In the simplest of terms, a ‘Jury’ is a group of Australian Citizens (Who have been selected by the government from the Electoral Roll) to attend Courts such as the District Court NSW or the Supreme Court NSW and hear a particular case and decide (for example in Criminal Trials) whether a person is guilty or whether a person is not guilty of an offence. In a Criminal Trial, a Jury usually consists of 12 Jurors.
But Jurors are not just limited to Criminal matters!
Did you know that some Coronial inquests as well as large Civil Law cases are also heard by a Jury?
Juries deciding Civil cases consist of (generally) of four members, however it should be noted that Civil Trials conducted in the Supreme Court NSW can be comprised of 12 Jurors.
Most Criminal trials in NSW are decided by a Jury. Whilst most criminal trials are made up of 12 jurors sometimes juries of 15 are empanelled in Trials which are expected to last longer than three months.
How is a Jury Empanelled?
A Jury is empanelled inside the court room. Each Juror is given a number and the numbers are selected at random. If a person’s number is called by the Court Officer in the Court room, that person will then make their way to one of the Jury Chairs. Once 12 numbers have been called by the Court officer, the defence and the prosecution can ‘challenge’ up to three Jurors.
It should be noted that if there are co-accused who are charged together, each co-accused can challenge three (potential) Jurors who have been called. In the state of NSW, no information such as the age of the person or their profession is to be provided to the parties. Once the Jury numbers have been called and once the jury has been selected, everyone else who has attended Jury Duty and who remains in the court room because their number has not been called will be dismissed.
Jurors who Misbehave.
Misbehaviour of a Juror can lead to a juror being charged with Contempt of Court. Jurors who do not act properly can lead to a mistrial.
What is a ‘Challenge’?
It is an objection which can be raised by either the defence lawyer or prosecutor to persons summoned to be Jurors. When a person is ‘challenged’ that particular person will not be part of the Jury Panel. The defence or the crown can have a variety of reasons with respect to challenging a Juror.
The Process of Jury Selection:
1. Jurors are selected by a Court Officer (Sherriff) at random.
2. A summons will be issued by the sheriff to each person who has been selected
3. After the summons is issued, the person named in the summons must attend and appear at the specified Location and time per the summons.
4. Upon attendance, the Sherriff will ask the person to provide their identification, name, details etc.
5. Once the person provides the sheriff with the identification information, the sheriff will give that person an identification number.
6. Jury Selection is by way of ballot and once the Juror is provided with their identification number, the presiding Judge (or an officer of the court) will place all cards which contains the jury’s ID numbers in a Box.
7. Cards will be drawn out and one by one, and after each number is drawn out, the Jury number will be called out.
8. Every time a Juror is challenged by the defence lawyer or the prosecutor, another number will be Drawn, and the Jury number will be called out.
9. This entire process will go on until the requisite number of jury is reached.
10. Each Juror (who’s number has been called) will be called to be sworn.
Persons who cannot serve as a Juror.
The following people do NOT qualify AND cannot serve as a juror:
- The Governor,
- A Judicial Officer,
- A Coroner,
- A member or officer of the Executive Council,
- A member of the Legislative Council or Legislative Assembly,
- Officers and other staff of either or both of the Houses of Parliament,
- An Australian lawyer (whether or not an Australian legal practitioner),
- A person employed or engaged (except on a casual or voluntary basis) in the public sector in law enforcement, criminal investigation, the provision of legal services in criminal cases, the administration of justice or penal administration,
- The Ombudsman and a Deputy Ombudsman,
- A person who at any time has been a Judicial Officer,
- A person who is unable to read or understand English, and
- A person who is unable, because of sickness, infirmity or disability, to discharge the duties of juror.
- A person who at any time within the last 3 years in NSW or elsewhere has been found guilty of an offence and detained in a detention centre or other institution for juvenile offenders (not being detention merely for failure to pay a fine),
- A person who at any time within the last 10 years in NSW or elsewhere has served any part of a sentence of imprisonment (not being imprisonment merely for failure to pay a fine),
- A person who is currently bound by an order made in NSW or elsewhere for a criminal charge or conviction, not including an order for compensation, but including the following:
- a parole order, a community service order, an apprehended violence order or an order disqualifying the person from driving a motor vehicle,
- an order committing the person to prison for failure to pay a fine,
- a good behaviour bond, a remand in custody pending trial or sentence and a release on bail pending trial or sentence.
Can a person who is qualified to serve as a Juror apply for an exemption?
A person can apply for an exemption pursuant to section 7 of the Jury Act 1977 and it should be noted that the following persons, as listed in Schedule 3, can claim exemption:
- Vowed members of any religious order,
- Practicing Dentists,
- Practicing Pharmacists
- Practicing Medical Practitioners
- Pregnant women,
- A person who has the care, custody, and control of children under the age of 18 years,
- Mining managers and under-managers of mines,
- A person employed or engaged (except on a casual or voluntary basis) in the provision of fire, ambulance, rescue, or other emergency services, whether or not in the public sector,
- Persons who are at least 70 years old,
- A person who resides with, and has full-time care of, a person who is sick, infirm or disabled,
- A person who resides more than 56 kilometres from the place at which the person is required to serve,
- A person who:
- served as a juror within the last three years
- within the last 12 months attended court in accordance with a summons and who was prepared, but did not, serve as a juror.
- A person who is entitled to be exempted under s 39 on account of previous lengthy jury sentence.
It is very important that you speak with a lawyer so that you can get the appropriate legal advice which you require prior to going to court.
Our team of experienced solicitors are there for you and can help you answer all your questions, so be sure to contact Nicopoulos Sabbagh Lawyers.
*This article correctly reflects the Laws of NSW as at 11TH October 2022.
*Please note that this page or any other pages on our website (including any other social media platforms for Nicopoulos Sabbagh Lawyers) are not to be considered as a substitute for legal advice or even other professional advice. It should also be noted that accessing of this information from this website does not create a client-lawyer relationship.