I was summoned for jury service last week, in our local district court. I’ve been summoned before, but it was for the High Court, and there was only one case starting that week, so once I wasn’t chosen, I was free to go for the rest of the week. This time it was the District Court, and we had to report for jury service every day. Some observations and comments:
- When I arrived, the jury assembly room was almost full. It was deathly silent. People were reading emails or books or playing games on their phones. Have our phones killed our ability to make small-talk with strangers in a similar situation?
- A few people had books, including one woman who had one of the Fifty Shades books with her. A curious choice, I thought, for a room full of strangers in the District Court!
- There’s always at least one person who thinks they are more important than everyone else in the room. They think they’re already doing a community service, that their time is more valuable, that this whole system is a waste of time.
- Fortunately, there are always others who disagree, who believe in doing our civic duty, who believe that we are all obliged to do this one thing to contribute to society. Jury duty, and taxes. There’s not much else we’re required to do, is there?
- Sometimes I wish I was more outspoken – that I could tell people not to be rude, or to “suck it up” or “calm down.” It would have been useful for the self-appointed most important person in the room. Some people need to be told the world doesn’t in fact centre around them. Some people need to learn a bit of compassion.
- The two-tier selection system keeps you on tenterhooks for a while. I was balloted for two trial, and in the end my name wasn’t called for either trial. I will confess to being relieved. But I felt good that I’d turned up.
- Whether it is the best justice system for lower level crimes, or whether a system of investigative judges would be better, is a matter of debate. It is though the system we have, and as such, we need to ensure it is the best it can be. We can only do this by turning up. And at least we don’t have elected judges!