Jury Duty: Your Rights and Obligations

Article 26 March 2021

Jury service plays an important role in our justice system.  Juries are used in coronial inquests in the NSW Coroner's Court, and in the NSW District and Supreme Courts to:

• hear and determine more serious criminal matters

• hear and determine civil matters involving large monetary claims

While many people see it as an important civic duty and are keen to participate, some dread receiving notification that they have been included on the list to be summoned. 

Attempts have been made in recent years to make jury duty more palatable for jurors, with bosses now required to pay workers their full pay for the first two weeks of jury service, and an increase in the amount that jurors are paid after that.

In recognition of the stress that often accompanies serving on a jury, especially when the case is disturbing in nature, jurors are now also offered counselling to help them deal with the information and details they may be required to consider.

How is a Jury Selected?

There are three steps to jury selection. People who sit as jurors in a particular trial have gone through all three steps.

1. Inclusion on the jury roll. Notices of Inclusion are sent out to tell people they are on the jury roll. This is a list of people who could be selected for jury service at any time over the next 12 months. 

2. Summons to jury service. People who have been sent a Notice of Inclusion may be sent a Jury Summons requiring them to report to court on a particular day for jury service.  

3. Jury selection and empanelling. At court, people who have been summoned are randomly selected and may then be empanelled to serve on a jury in a particular trial.  

Can I apply to be excused from jury duty?

If you have a good reason to believe that you should be excused from jury duty you can apply in writing to the Sheriff’s Office at the time you receive your notice of inclusion, or on the day of your jury service (in the case of unexpected illnesses and accidents or a family emergency).

To request an exemption, you will need to tick the relevant box on the notice of inclusion and send it back to the Office of the Sheriff, along with supporting documentation, or go to the juror website and apply online.

What is an acceptable excuse?

There are a number of different exemptions from jury duty in NSW which are determined on the basis of:

1. Your occupation (medical practitioners, members of the clergy, sole traders or contractors and emergency service personnel may be excluded among others);  

2. Your medical circumstances, such as if you have  a medical condition that would make attendance difficult; and

3. Your family circumstances (for example if you are a full time parent or carer).

Sitting on a Jury: Your obligations

An accused person has the right to a fair trial, so jurors must pay full attention to the trial proceedings.  If you are ultimately selected to sit on a jury, some of the requirements of your role include:

• Jurors should at all times be open-minded, fair and impartial.

• If you realise in court that you know a witness, you must immediately inform the judge in a note sent via the court officer. The names of witnesses will have been read out at the start of the case, so whenever possible this should have been raised before the jury was empanelled.

• All jury discussions must occur in the jury room and only when all jurors are present.

• Do not discuss the case with any other people. You should not speak to other people in the precincts of the court. If you attend work on a day when court is not sitting, be careful not to discuss any details of the trial with your colleagues or work mates.

• Do not post any discussions or materials from jury service on social media.

• You will be provided with a notebook to take notes as needed. You will have to hand this in each day, and at the end of the trial. Once the matter has been finalised, all the notebooks are destroyed.

• You may be required to go on a 'jury view', where you are taken to the scene of the alleged crime, with the judge and legal representatives. These visits are pre-arranged and treated like a normal trial day.

• You are not permitted to visit the alleged crime scene without the judge and legal representatives in attendance.

• During the trial, you must not use any material or research tool, including the internet, to find out further information which relates to any matter arising in the trial.   

Court usually sits from 9:30am to 4.00pm, with lunch and morning tea breaks, and you will be required to attend during those hours throughout the trial until a verdict is reached.