Judge becomes juror in legal reforms

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The Independent Online

One of the country's senior judges has been summoned to sit as a juror in a criminal trial as part of a government initiative designed to make the middle classes play a greater role in the justice system.

One of the country's senior judges has been summoned to sit as a juror in a criminal trial as part of a government initiative designed to make the middle classes play a greater role in the justice system.

Lord Justice Dyson, of the Court of Appeal, is the first High Court judge and possibly the first member of the judiciary to be called to jury service. He will lead the way for thousands of other members of the legal profession, the clergy, the police and armed forces, who are all now eligible to sit as jurors.

Under reforms that came into force in April, no one will be allowed to dodge jury service unless they can show "exceptional circumstances''.

Lord Justice Dyson will be empanelled as a juror at the Crown Court nearest his home. A spokesman for the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, said he would be treated like any other member of the public called to perform their civic duty.

But the prospect of senior judges sitting anonymously with 11 other jurors and taking part in deliberations over issues of evidence has prompted Lord Woolf to draw up guidelines.

Judges will be sent advice about how they should conduct themselves in the jury room. The Lord Chief Justice's spokeswoman said the guidance would tell them they should not "presume'' to be chosen as jury foreman. "They should expect to be treated like other jurors and should not presume anything because of their judicial status,'' she added.

A more difficult issue is how to advise a juror judge to react if he or she believes the judge hearing the case has misdirected the jury.

Lord Woolf's guidance is expected to advise judges sitting as jurors not to intervene and let justice take its normal course.

Defence lawyers however are expected to launch challenges against jurors who are judges or police, arguing that their experience of the courts means they will not be able to sit as impartial arbiters.