Two-thirds of people avoid jury service

More than two-thirds of people summoned to do jury service manage to find a way of not turning up at court.

More than two-thirds of people summoned to do jury service manage to find a way of not turning up at court.

A Home Office report published yesterday revealed that medical reasons and caring for children and the elderly were the most common excuses, followed by work commitments, studying for exams, holidays and transport difficulties. Others could not be traced or failed to turn up.

The study found that of 50,000 people summoned, only 17,000 were available for service and half of these asked for their appearances to be deferred to a later date.

Brian Barker, QC, chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said last night that people needed to be made more aware of their civic responsibility to do jury service. He said: "Everybody appreciates that it does take quite a chunk out of people's lives but it's an important responsibility and if people don't take part then the whole thing could grind to a halt."

Another worrying finding of the Home Office report was that dependence on the electoral register as a source of potential jurors could mean juries being dominated by white, home-owners over the age of 30.

The study noted that 24 per cent of black people, 21 per cent of people aged between 20 and 24 and 38 per cent of those living in rented accommodation were not registered and therefore ineligible for jury service.

John Wadham, of the civil rights group Liberty, said: "For the system to work, the jury must represent all of the community. Young people and certainly black people feel alienated because of the attitudes of some police officers and the racism in the Criminal Justice System as a whole. It is hardly surprising that they don't want to take part."

Of the 50,000 people summoned, 7 per cent were disqualified for being over 70 or because they had been convicted of certain offences while 8 per cent could not be traced and 7 per cent failed to attend on the day.

Another 44 per cent were excused duties, with many on medical grounds. This included deafness, blindness or need of a wheelchair.

Ministers are reviewing the law which forbids third parties like lip-readers from being present in jury rooms. Earlier this week, the rule was the subject of an unsuccessful legal challenge by Jeff McWhinney, chief executive of the British Deaf Association.

A fifth of people said they had to care for children or the infirm and 13 per cent described themselves as "essential workers". Others were excused for having relatives in prison or on probation, being pregnant or having to care for animals. The study uncovered 170 people summoned who had been excused because of transport difficulties, most of them living in isolated rural areas.

Of the 34 per cent of people who were available, half asked for a postponement. Most (39 per cent) cited work reasons, with 35 per cent saying they were going on holiday and 6 per cent were studying for exams. One in ten who postponed their service were eventually excused altogether.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test