Middle Class Problems: Responsible citizens carry out jury service with pride ... if only it weren't so inconvenient


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Ah, our wonderful British legal system: habeas corpus, the right of a defendant to be tried by his or her peers, pro bono… marvellous. How lucky to live in a land where, influential or powerless, if we wash up in front of Lord Justice Fairenough, 12 good men and women will weigh every word and put themselves in our shoes.

His lordship may have lived a charmed life, gliding from one quadrangle to the next – Eton, King's College, Lincoln's Inn – but the jury will know the knocks and setbacks of the real world. They will look kindly on a basically decent person briefly off the rails.

And we, as responsible citizens, will look with sobriety and compassion on others when we are called to do jury service, rising to our duty with pride. If only it weren't so inconvenient.

First, the timing: a summons to jury service is open-ended – you might be out by teatime, or even earlier if the defence counsel thinks your stern scowl suggests a lack of charity, and rejects you outright. But equally, you might be required to bowl up for months on end for Regina vs Fiddler Books, a fiscal case of such complexity that even Stephanie Flanders would look flustered.

Then there is the matter of loss of earnings: the small daily allowance, unless the office will cover your absence, is not going to go far. A freelance may get more, but previous earnings do not reflect that massive job you might have landed had you not been at the summing up.

Maybe ask to be excused this time. Obviously, it will be a privilege to be asked again and – possibly – to comply.