This article was written by Fernanda Dahlstrom - Content Editor - Brisbane

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.

Jury Service

Like other Australian jurisdiction, Western Australia uses juries to decide some civil trials and the majority of criminal trials in the higher courts. Any resident in Western Australia who is enrolled to vote is liable to serve as a juror; however, some people can be excused from jury service or are ineligible. Jury service is governed by the Juries Act 1957.

What is jury service?

If a person is called up for jury service, they are being asked to give their time and effort for the period they have been summonsed. Their employer will be required to co-operate by excusing them from work for the period they are serving. They will be remunerated for their service and if there is a gap between the remuneration they receive and what they would normally earn during the same period, their employer will be required to pay them the difference so that they are not disadvantaged.

Serving on a jury

If a person is called up for jury service they will receive a summons several weeks before the date the trial is listed. They will be required to attend court on a date when jurors will be selected. If they are selected they will be required to hear evidence in a civil or criminal trial. The majority of trials in Western Australia are completed in under five days. However, some trials may run for longer. Court usually sits between 10am and 4.30pm with breaks being determined by the judge. If a person is selected for jury service, they need to prepare for the possibility of a long trial. If this is going to be a problem for them, they may need to consider deferring their jury service. This should be done before the date they have been summonsed to appear.

Can I get out of jury service?

If a person needs to defer their jury service to a more convenient time, they can do so for a period of up to six months. A deferral can be granted on the basis of health issues, pressing commitments, business needs or because hardship would be caused to the person’s family or the community if they attended jury service. A person can apply for a deferral by filling in the statutory declaration on the back of the summons they have received.

Section 5 of the Juries Act sets out the circumstances under which a person is ineligible to serve on a jury. These include where the person is over 75 and where the person has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of more than two years. Public officials such as judges, lawyers and police officers are also ineligible for jury service.

Section 34G of the Juries Act sets out the grounds on which a person may apply to be excused from jury service. These include not understanding English, not living in the relevant district, and being unable to perform jury service because of a disability. A person can be excused for a specific period or permanently. A judge may also excuse a person from jury service at their own initiative.

A person who has performed jury service in the previous five years will also be excused from serving on a jury again.

Offences and penalties relating to jury duty

There are a number of criminal offences relating to jury service under Section 55 of the Juries Act. These include impersonating a juror. failing to obey a summons and failing to obey a direction These offences are all punishable by fines of up to $5,000.

Section 56 creates a number of criminal offences relating to conduct by the employer of a juror. These offences can attract fines of up to $10,000 (or $50,000 for a body corporate). If an employer treats a person who is performing jury service disfavourably – for example, by terminating their employment or reducing their salary, the employer is committing an offence.

Jury confidentiality

Jurors must not disclose statements that are made, opinions that are expressed, arguments that are advanced or votes that are cast in the course of the jury’s deliberations. It is also an offence for a person to solicit or obtain information relating to the deliberations of a jury or to publish such information. Any of these acts can attract a fine of up to $5,000.

It is an offence to take or publish pictures of a person attending court for jury service.

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If you suspect that you may be under investigation, or if you have been charged with an offence, it is vital to get competent legal advice as early as possible. Our lawyers are highly specialised in criminal law and will be able to guide you through the process while dealing with the various authorities related to your matter.


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