Jury Service (Qld)
In Queensland, juries are used to decide the outcomes of both civil and criminal trials. Criminal trials are decided by a jury of 12 jurors and civil trials by four jurors. Jurors are selected randomly from the electoral roll and potential jurors are sent a letter with a questionnaire to determine whether they are eligible for jury service. If a person is selected for jury service, they are required to attend court for empanelment. Those jurors who are empanelled are then allocated to a trial.
Juries are governed by the Jury Act 1995. Jurors do not decide questions of law or what sentencing orders a court should make; they only decide whether the defendant is guilty (or in a civil trial, who is at fault). Jurors are remunerated for the time they spend on jury service.
Who is eligible for jury service?
A person is ineligible for jury duty if they:
- are a member of parliament, a councillor, a mayor or the governor;
- are a lawyer or member of the judiciary;
- have been a police officer;
- are a detention centre employee or corrective services officer;
- cannot read and write English;
- have a disability that means they are incapable of performing as a juror;
- have been convicted of an indictable offence;
- are over 70, unless they have elected to be eligible for jury duty;
- have been sentenced to a term of imprisonment.
Who may be excused from jury service?
It is possible to apply to be excused from jury service either permanently or for a specified period. Section 21 of the Act provides that a potential juror can be excused if:
- jury service would cause substantial hardship to the person because of their employment or personal circumstances;
- jury service would cause them substantial financial hardship;
- jury service would cause substantial inconvenience to the public;
- others are dependent on the person’s care and suitable alternative care is not available;
- the person needs to be excused for health reasons.
Selection of jurors
In a trial, both parties are entitled to a specified number of peremptory challenges of potential jurors as well as being allowed to challenge a potential juror for cause. A peremptory challenge is a challenge where the challenging party does not have to give a reason. A challenge for cause may be made because a person is not eligible to serve on a jury or because the person is not impartial.
In a civil trial, each party gets two peremptory challenges and is allowed additional challenges if reserve jurors are to be selected (Section 42).
In a criminal trial, the prosecution and defence are each given eight peremptory challenges, with additional challenges allowed if reserve jurors are to be selected (Section 42).
The court must inform the accused that they may challenge the selection of a juror before the juror is sworn in (Section 39). A party may challenge the entire jury panel by informing the judge of their objection before any juror is sworn in (Section 40). It is not permissible for a person selected for jury duty to be asked questions to establish how they are likely to react to issues in a trial unless the judge authorises this (Section 31).
Restriction on communication
While a jury is kept together a person who is not part of the jury must not communicate with them without the judge’s permission (Section 54). A breach of this provision amounts to contempt of court.
Accommodation during jury service
While a jury is kept together outside the courtroom, the jurors must be in a private place and supervised by a court officer or otherwise as the judge directs (Section 55).
Discharge or death of juror
A judge may discharge a juror, after they have been sworn in if:
- it appears that the person is not impartial;
- they become incapable of acting as a juror;
- they become unavailable for reasons the judge assesses as adequate.
If a juror dies or is discharged before the start of the trial, the judge may direct that another juror be sworn in (Section 56).
If in a civil trial the jury fails to reach a unanimous verdict after six hours, they may be discharged. If the jury has not reached a unanimous verdict after six hours, the court can accept a minority verdict of three of the jurors as the verdict of the jury with the agreement of both parties.
Verdicts in criminal matters for particular offences must be unanimous. In other criminal matters, the judge is allowed to accept a majority verdict
If you require legal advice in relation to jury service or in any other legal matter please contact Armstrong Legal.