Jury Selection Process
I was called for the first time for jury service last week in the Circuit Court in Portlaoise.
I joined a large crowd of people filing in to a courtroom. The names of 449 people were read out and the names of those present, well over 400, were put in a box. The 400 people and the box then moved to another courtroom and imagine my surprise when I found out that the 449 people had been called for just one jury panel for one day.
Then we were all given details of the case and twenty names were taken at random from the box. Some of those called were given exemptions and that left 2 women and 10 men to be sworn in for jury service. The remaining 380 of us were told we could go. We had been an hour in the courthouse.
Now, I wondered as I left does this happen every day in courts throughout the land?
Is it necessary or usual to call this number of people in order to find 12 for one jury?
As 400 people had turned up it’s possible that over 500 people had been written to initially. Think of the expense attached to that in - court employees time, postage, stationery, printing etc. Those of us who agreed to attend for jury service had been written to twice.
Surely this money could be better spent in the Department of Justice as in perhaps, rehabilitation programmes for prisoners.
I was mindful in the courtroom that most of those present would not have been called at all but for the case taken by Mary Anderson and Mairin de Burca in 1975 when they challenged the constitutionality of the Juries Act 1927 and won.
Up to then only property owners (mostly men) could serve on a jury.
As I am retired it was easy for me to attend but many of the others there would have had to change work times, make other arrangements for pre school children and elderly in their care etc.
I realise, of course, that if only retired people served on juries they wouldn’t be representative of society but calling these big numbers puzzles me.