How do I get out of Jury Service?

There are some who enjoy jury duty, and are thrilled to take part in seeing justice done. However, if you have arrived at this page, there is a good chance that this does not apply to you.

There are reasons for which you can be excused from jury service, but unless one of these reasons apply to you, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to avoid it. However, if you have good enough reason, you may be able to put off your jury service for a while.

Who is Exempt from Jury Service?

Generally, anyone who is on the electoral register and aged from 18 and 70 is eligible to be called for jury service. However, there are other things that could reduce your chances of sitting on a jury, or would lead to your being excused altogether.

Mental Health

If you have suffered or continue to suffer some form of mental illness or disability, this will render you ineligible to sit on the jury, provided that one of the following conditions applies to you.

  • You are receiving ongoing and regular treatment for the condition, or are residing in a medical institution for treatment;
  • You do not have the mental capacity to make the decisions of a juror, under the Mental Capacity Act 2005;
  • You are in guardianship under the Mental Health Act 1983.

The specific nature of these conditions mean that a prior mental disorder will not necessarily excuse you from jury service.

Recent Convictions and Sentences

If you have recent convictions, these can automatically disqualify you from serving on a jury – however, whether or not your conviction is recent enough depends on the sentence that you were given.

The following conditions will prevent you from jury service:

  • You have been sentenced to prison, youth custody or community service within the last ten years;
  • You have been on probation or on bail in the last five years;
  • You have had a stint in prison or youth custody that lasted longer than five years.

Jobs and Careers

There are certain jobs that are very likely to prevent one from sitting on the jury – being a member of the armed forces is one such profession. Medical professionals and MPs are unlikely to end up on a jury, as is anyone whose job requires them to have a specific interest in the law, such as a solicitor, a police officer, or a judge.

Previous Jury Service

You cannot be made to sit on a jury more than once within the span of two years, so in the unlikely event that you are called upon less than two years after your previous service, you will most likely be excused.

Bias or Prejudice

If it is possible that you could bring some kind of bias into your decision making as a juror, this may well be enough to have you removed as a juror from a trial. This could be because the trial is regarding something that has affected you personally – an example would be a trial in which the defendant is accused of a crime that has been committed against you recently.

A juror could also be considered to have prejudice if you they know anyone involved in the case, or if they know too much about the case going in. A history of racial or ethnic bias against the ethnicity of a participant in the trial (including the judge) could also be a factor.

However, as these conditions are likely to be specific to a particular trial, it is likely that your service will be deferred to another trial.

Age (Scotland only)

In Scotland, there is no upper age limit on being called to serve on a jury. However, if you are aged 71 or older, you have what is known as the “right to excusal”, which means that you can choose not to do jury service if you do not want to.

If you want to exercise this right, you should contact the clerk of the court. You are free to exercise this right up until the day of the trial.

Deferring Jury Service

There will be times when one is unable to fulfil one’s jury duty on the time called to court. In this instance, you can apply to have your jury service deferred (i.e. put back).

Excusal from jury duty is not granted lightly, so you will need a solid reason, such as a pre-booked holiday, an exam, or a serious medical condition. Any claims you made will need to be backed up, for example by a medical certificate from a doctor.

When returning your reply to summons form you must fully explain why you will not be able to serve on the date specified and give dates within the next 12 months on which you will be able to, so that your jury service can be rearranged.

If when you receive your jury summons you are unable to perform your jury duty at any time in the next 12 months, you can apply to be excused from jury service altogether. You will have to explain your reasons when sending back the reply to the jury summons.