Englishman excused from Scottish jury

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The Independent Online
DETRACTORS of the jury system have become resigned to innumerate jurors scratching their heads over a fraud trial, or a victim of traffic wardens favouring a motorist who had taken the law into his own hands.

But then Adrian Roberts was called up for jury service, and now detractors are hopeful of reform again. When the Sunderland- born construction worker was asked to take the oath in a Sheriff's court in Edinburgh, he looked bemused.

The Sheriff, James Farrell, spotted the juror's difficulty and asked him if he could help. 'I told him what the problem was and they agreed that I could go,' Mr Roberts said.

So what persuaded the sheriff to discharge this man? Had he been to school with the defendant? Was the prosecution witness his dentist? Neither of these, he explained. 'I couldn't understand half of what people were saying,' he said. 'Someone could have gone down because I didn't understand what they were talking about and it would not have been fair.'

It cannot have been the first time that an English exile - Mr Roberts, 51, is married to a Scottish woman and moved to her home town of Edinburgh three years ago - has been called up for jury service in Scotland.

But a spokesman for the Scottish Office said it was the first case he could remember where an Englishman had been discharged because he could not understand the language. 'Justice must not only be seen to be done but heard to be done,' he said. 'A person's race isn't normally grounds for getting off jury duty but obviously if the chap couldn't understand the proceedings, the sheriff would feel he had to discharge him.'