A jury panel is a crucial part of civil and criminal cases heard in the NSW District and Supreme Courts. Jurors represent the general public, and are essential in determining the outcome of cases involving more serious criminal matters and large monetary claims.
Because of this, there is a system in place to help determine the selection of jurors for trial. Jury duty is a part of your responsibilities as a citizen, and anyone may be called on to serve on a jury panel. Here is how the process works.
Inclusion on the jury roll
Around 200,000 people are randomly selected from the NSW Electoral Roll to be on the jury roll every year, meaning that they can potentially serve on a jury panel throughout the year. This step informs individuals in advance that they may be summoned to court sometime in that particular year.
Jury service summons
Around 150,000 people from those on this jury roll will be sent summons for jury service. It is usually sent a month before the trial and must be obeyed unless you apply to be excused with good cause.
Your summons will contain important information, such as the date and time of the trial and your panel number. You may face legal repercussions such as a financial penalty of up to $2200 if you do not turn up for your summons without being formally excused.
Jury selection and empaneling
Only about 9,000 people actually end up on a jury panel from the 200,000 on the jury roll. Once you turn up for your summons, it is based on a random draw and whether the number on your juror card is called. If it is, you will be included in the jury.
Challenging a juror
The prosecutor and defense counsel are each able to challenge any juror in the jury box up to three times. If you are challenged, you will sit out that particular trial but may be considered for another if there are any upcoming trials on that day.
Swearing in a jury
Once the challenges have been exhausted and there is a full jury panel, each individual who has been selected is asked to take an oath or affirmation to carry their task out impartially and faithfully.
The jury then chooses a representative who will deliver the verdict at the end of the trial and answer any question posed by the court.