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Why are dodgy excuses are on the rise for jury duty?

It seems individuals are now putting a lot of effort into increasingly bizarre ways to avoid jury duty. This has largely been caused by legal proceedings in some areas of the law becoming too complex and drawn-out. For example, in the past, a sex or drug case would run for a few weeks. Nowadays, such a case could run for months.

This increase in longer trials caused a 75 percent rise last year in the number of fines for people who tried to get out of jury duty without a good reason. In 2015, 14,772 fines for not attending jury service were referred to the State Debt Recovery Office. This rose 75 percent to 21,942 in 2016, with 13,568 fines so far this year. The fine for failing to attend is $1100.

What were the most bizarre rejected excuses?

  • • I am allergic to air conditioning and am scared of coming into an airconditioned room;
  • • I need to look after my cat;
  • • I have a public transport phobia and can’t attend because there is no one to drive me to court;
  • • The planets are not aligned and it’s not a good fit for me;
  • • I will fall asleep in the trial and my snoring will be a distraction.

Not stopping there, people have told anecdotes recalling someone arriving for duty carrying a copy of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf in a bid to get dismissed from serving on the grounds of holding extremist views. We cannot confirm if this method was successful.

What compensation do you receive for serving?

Jurors receive a payment of $106.30 a day (this increases to $242.30 a day on longer trials for jurors who are employed). While this could be an incentive for people on lower incomes, it would not motivate those in higher-paid jobs to attend.

Payment breakdown:

  • • $106.30 a day pay for jurors
  • • $239.20 for trials longer than 10 days
  • • 30.7c per km for travel
  • • Lunch is a sandwich, fruit and drink
  • • After six days, hot meals are served
  • • $6.95 in lunch money for those who BYO

Who can’t serve?

If you aren’t on the electoral roll, you can’t serve. Others who are excluded from servicing include anyone with a criminal conviction or Judges, lawyers, police and politicians and most people working in the justice system with access to prison inmate records are not permitted to serve on juries.

Other occupations that can apply to be exempt include dentists, doctors, clergy, pharmacists, emergency workers and full-time carers.

What is a suitable excuse? 

The most common reasons people are excused are illness or injury, a conflict of interest, proof that they would suffer financial hardship, and employment. Also, a person may be excused on the day the trial begins if they know the defendant or a witness in the trial.

Potential jurors can be excused if they have a proof of a pre-booked holiday, medical reasons, study commitments or care for children or other relatives. As long as the individual can show ‘good cause’ but can also provide evidence of such.

Before you have decided whether or not your dog ate your jury letter to get out of serving, the statistical likely hood of actually being chosen is quite low. From the electoral roll, 278,000 were randomly selected to be on the jury roll but only 58,000 were required to attend court. Of those, 7050 actually served on a jury trial. While only 12 percent of the people who show up to court end up serving on a jury.

The court does understand that that jury duty can be an inconvenience to people’s lives, we should remember that this is an important civic duty to ensure that the justice system is made up of a good cross-section of the population to promote fairness across the judicial system.

If you are looking for legal advice, contact our team of experts on 02 4343 1773 or info@perdriaufamilylawyers.com.au to discuss your matter.

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