Thursday 28 April 2016

The wheels of justice

. . . turn slowly but they grind exceeding small.  I was called to Jury Service a month ago and I was quite anxious to do it. I've only been asked twice before and both times had an unavoidable prior commitment . . . that passed muster with the County Registrar.  A very wide range of people are excused from this essential act of the democratic process. It almost seems as if you have any sort of government sinecure job, you can avoid the call.
  • Ineligible: the President of the Republic, the Attorney General, judges, lawyers, Court Registrars, gardai, soldiers
  • Disqualified: perps - anyone who has served a jail term
  • Excused as of right:
    • pensioners
    • members of parliament: both Dáil and Seanad
    • clergy, monks and nuns
    • aircraft pilots and ship's captains
    • full time students; teachers and lecturers if their line manager deems their service essential
    • senior civil servants ditto
    • doctors, nurses, midwives, dentists, vets, pharmacists
Who's left?? a) the self-employed including farmers, b) the unemployed and c) workers in retail and industry. Employers are obliged by statute to continue to pay their absent workers but the self-employed just lose a day's work; or many days' work if they draw a murder or complex financial scam case.  You don't get paid expenses or mileage or even get a free parking pass.  It would cost me about €40 in petrol if the case went on for a week. If you are empanelled for a complete day, you can claim a lunch in the court canteen.  No cash-in-lieu if you bring your own gluten-free salad.

Yesterday about 70 people answered the summons to attend the local court for 2pm. We were seated in a spare court-room for "15 minutes - 30 at the outside" which bled into 70 minutes. Then we were told to pack into the open court and wait until our names were drawn from a box by the Registrar of the Court. If your name was called you were told to go sit in the jury box. When 16 names had been drawn [a jury and 4 substitutes], these potential jurors were sworn in one by one.  But both the defense and the prosecution have the right to challenge up to 7 people whose face, dress or demeanour they don't like. The accused are in the court and identified as to name and address and their alleged crime. Rather than being sworn in, jurors can ask to be excused if, for example, they know the perps or any of the witnesses or the gardai on the case.  All in all, twice as many people were called as were required.  I thought I was clear when 11/12 seats in the box were filled but my name was drawn next, I stood up and was promptly told to stand down again, excused. The defense didn't like my lecturer's Harris tweed jacket or my haircut or thought my eyes were too close together. Us rejects, and those who were summoned but not called, are required to present ourselves again at 1030 on Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment