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Jury Service in the ACT

In the ACT, juries are only used to decide criminal trials in the Supreme Court. Juries in the ACT are governed by the Juries Act 1967. This article outlines the laws surrounding juries and jury service in the ACT.

What is the role of juries in the ACT?

A jury is used to decide whether the accused in a serious indictable criminal matter is guilty or not guilty. Juries make this assessment based on the evidence put before the court during the course of the trial, having regard to directions given by the judge. A jury does not decide legal issues or what sentence the accused should receive.

How is the jury composed?

In the ACT, a jury is composed of 12 jurors (section 7, Juries Act).

Where one or two jurors are unable to continue sitting on the jury because of illness or other sufficient cause, the trial may continue with a reduced number of jurors if the judge so orders (section 8).

Who can be chosen for Jury service in the ACT?

Anyone who is listed on the electoral roll in the ACT may be called upon for jury service. The person will be liable to serve on a jury unless they are disqualified or exempt.

Disqualified, ineligible or exempt

The Juries Regulations 2018 sets out the classes of people who are disqualified, ineligible, exempt from jury service in the ACT.

Under the regulations, a person is disqualified from jury service for life if they have been:

  • Convicted of an offence punishable by life imprisonment;
  • Convicted of a terrorist offence;
  • Convicted of an offence involving actual or threatened violence or endangering life and punishable by more than 15 years imprisonment;
  • Convicted of a sexual offence punishable by imprisonment for 10 years or more;
  • Convicted of unlawfully possessing or making explosives.

A person is disqualified from jury service for a fixed period if they have been convicted of an offence and sentenced to imprisonment, detention or a good behaviour order. The period for which they are disqualified from jury service depends on the sentence received.

Under the Regulations, a person is exempt from jury service if they are employed in certain occupations, including:

  • Magistrate or coroner;
  • Doctor;
  • Police officer;
  • Emergency service worker;
  • Judge

A person may claim an exemption from jury service in the ACT if they are:

  • A minister of religion;
  • A professor, lecturer, teacher or principal;
  • The editor of a newspaper;
  • A nurse;
  • A person aged over 70;
  • A person with a disability within the meaning of the Disability Services Act 1991;
  • A person who is subject to a mental health order under the Mental Health Act 2015;
  • A person who cannot read or speak English;
  • A person who is a full-time carer for a disabled person with whom they live.

Excusing of jurors

A judge or a sheriff may excuse a person from attending for jury service in the ACT during a stated period if the juror has shown sufficient reason such as pregnancy or illness.

Empanelling a jury in the ACT

A jury is empanelled by a court officer randomly choosing the identifying number for 12 members of the jury pool. A person selected may be challenged by either the defence or the prosecution. Each party is entitled to eight peremptory challenges and unlimited challenges for cause. This means that both defence and prosecution may challenge eight potential jurors without the need to state a reason, with the result that the challenged juror will not form part of the jury. Each party can also challenge jurors for cause (for example, because they are an associate of the accused or are biased).

Offences relating to jurors

The Juries Act contains a number of criminal offences relating to juries. These include non-attendance for jury service and leaving court without permission while performing jury service, both of which can attract a fine of up to 10 penalty units. Personation of a juror is also an offence, which can lead to a penalty of up to six months imprisonment.

It is an offence for an employer to unlawfully dismiss a worker who is absent because they are performing jury duty (section 44AA) or to disclose protected information such as jury deliberations and the identities of jurors (section 42C).

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Armstrong Legal.

Fernanda Dahlstrom

This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws, a Bachelor of Arts and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice. She has also completed a Master’s in Writing and Literature. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory and in family law in Queensland.

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